‘Premium Rush’ (2012) Movie Review

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Premium Rush
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Premium Rush
Photo: Columbia Pictures

Michael Shannon eats up the scenery in Premium Rush, a film not to be taken the least bit seriously, but instead (mildly) enjoyed for its stupidity. Loaded with a multitude of problems — most egregious would be its focus on the wrong character — it’s hardly a film you need to rush to see, but with the right mindset and friends at your side you could find yourself having a good time.

Premium Rush is essentially bike messenger porn with a Google Maps fetish and the “street” attitude of Step Up. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Wilee, a New York City bike messenger who lives on the edge. Yeah, he’s a real daredevil. His bike doesn’t have brakes (what?) it it only has one gear (word!), anything else is for sissies. He dropped out of law school because he can’t see himself wearing a suit to work each day and the fact he gets “paid to ride” is a dream come true as he weaves his way through NYC traffic, fast enough to stop off for a “food log” on occasion. But today he’s going to get a package he’d probably prefer he never picked up.

He’s handed an envelope and has only a couple hours to get to his location. No problem. He’s the best. Pish tosh, ain’t no package Wilee can’t deliver on time. After all, they don’t call him Wile E. Coyote for nothing. Wait, didn’t the Coyote always get outsmarted by the Road Runner? You know, “Meep! Meep!” and all? Forget it, we’re thinking too much. Drop an ACME brick on that logic bomb and let’s move on.

So we’re heading upstate with our envelope, but this is where we meet Detective Bobby Monday (Shannon). He’s sort of a Bad Lieutenant-light kind of dirty cop. Instead of drugs and sex, his addiction is Pai Gow and he’s in deep with the wrong guys. As Bobby’s debt quickly runs up over the course of a ridiculous five-minute span where he may as well be on drugs he’s acting so irrationally, he learns he needs to get the package Wilee is carrying or he probably won’t live to see the next day.

What’s next? A lot of Google Maps, bike riding, cars chasing bikes, bikes chasing bikes, interactive 3D Google Earth driving directions, a little more bike riding, freeze-frame “which path should I take?” moments, parkour bike riding and, yup, bike riding. The action is redundant, not necessarily thrilling and while Gordon-Levitt is as charismatic as ever, all the fun falls in Shannon’s corner.

Shannon’s batshit crazy cop performance is so much fun. There’s a moment he’s planning on going out on a bust with a pair of fellow officers, but needs to get out of it and says to them, “Yeah guys, I’ll catch up with you… I forgot my bullets.” Premium Rush needed more of this, less of the relationship drama between Wilee and Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) and the macho BS between he and fellow messenger Manny (Wolé Parks). Shannon’s Bobby is a dog without a leash and he’s been let loose in the petting zoo. He’ll just as soon choke out an innocent young woman as stomp a man’s face into the ground and Shannon sells it every step of the way as an excellent B-movie villain.

Directed by David Koepp (Secret Window), who co-wrote the screenplay with John Kamps, whom he co-wrote Zathura and Ricky Gervais’ Ghost Town, the film looses its excitement when it’s trying too hard for action and would have played much better as an R-rated, crazy cop flick. The angle of a dirty cop who goes in debt playing Pai gow and then has to chase down New York City bike messengers is so silly it’s brilliant… as long as you focus on the cop and not the messengers. Sure, the messengers can win, but let’s see what else this nut has gotten himself into.

The plotting is ridiculous and, if you couldn’t tell by now, the Google Map inserts are tiresome from the first moment you see them, but there is a little bit of B-movie entertainment to be found in Premium Rush, even if you have to put “entertainment” in quotes.

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