IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 87 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Among the bike couriers in New York City, no one is more determined and reckless than Wilee, an ex-law student more comfortable on his brakeless bike than in a suit. One day, a Chinese foreign student named Nima arranges for him to deliver a vital envelope across the city. Unfortunately, a crooked cop, Det. Robert Monday, has a desperate need for that envelope himself and won’t take “No” for an answer. Now, Wilee finds himself relentlessly pursued by Monday and others in a situation becoming more complicated and dangerous by the minute. Together with his friends and rivals, Wilee must discover the secret of this dangerous delivery and make it through a gauntlet that will require all his cunning, daring and courage to survive……
Premium Rush shouldn’t really be very good. As well as featuring a type of vehicle that hardly has much potential for excitement, it also appears to celebrate a type of person whom anyone who has driven a car has probably wanted to kill at one time or another; that particular breed of cyclist who rides through red lights, disrupts pedestrians on pavements and takes the view that other people should get out of their way. However, David Koepp, a decent scriptwriter who has turned director, can usually be relied on to turn out a half-decent film, and Premium Rush is certainly that, if nothing special really. It moves at a terrific pace and its story is told quite interestingly, while its brief running time ensures that the piece has no fat and doesn’t outstay its welcome.
It opens, as it mostly continues with, some frantic bike-dashing, and I found it very hard to like these speed-crazy cretins who compete to see who can deliver a package fast enough and think they own the streets. In particular, our hero Wilie is an arrogant idiot, though my dislike of him might be increased by the fact that I have never warmed to Joseph Gordon-Levitt and think he is better in supporting roles than as a leading man; I’m probably in the minority though. Still, the action continues with a fine chase involving two bikes and a car, and though it carries on pretty much in the same way it doesn’t get boring. Koepp knows how to increase the excitement of action through lots of camera angles and in particular a camera following right behind the action, and he also rarely goes for that shakycam/ fast edit/ random close-up crap that plagues action cinema today. There is an escape in a factory that has some superb stunt work, and Koepp enhances all this stuff with some cool directorial touches, such as showing differing potential routes with yellow arrows pointing the way and even showing what might possibly go wrong. When Willie sees himself and other people including even a baby possibly dead as a result of his actions, you know what that film has taken on a slightly more responsible strain.
Much of the film’s story is told non-chronologically in a manner not unlike Reservoir Dogs, though for a while it almost comes across as a variation on those old Burt Reynolds car chase movies like Smokey And The Bandit, replete with a cop constantly trying to catch our hero and constantly failing, and all the hero’s workmates available to help out when they are needed. A third of the way through the film starts to periodically flash back to the story behind the package that Wilie is carrying and that everyone is after, and it’s an absorbing and even touching tale involving a pretty Chinese woman and her young boy. There’s much emphasis on Bobby Monday, the cop after Wilie, and he provides some violence that, along with some mild swearing, almost seems out of place in this good natured flick and could probably have been taken out. However, the movie does adopt a darker tone as it develops and Koepp just about manages the subtle shifts in tone well, though many of the performances are uneven. In particular, Michael Shannon as Bobby almost seems to go out of control.
The film is never dull though and almost becomes on the verge of becoming exhilarating at times. Along with some decent laughs are some solid bits of suspense. Premium Rush never seems to even to try to be a ‘great’ action movie and its lack of pretention is refreshing. I have a feeling that I’ll forget most of this unashamedly empty picture in a week’s time, but I did have fun watching it and I forgot at times that I really didn’t like a lot of the stupid idiots in it. As for Wilie, he doesn’t seem to learnt much by the end, but you know what, I rather liked the lack of moralisation as the film concluded.