Synopsis: In Manhattan, a bike messenger picks up an envelope that attracts the interest of a dirty cop, who pursues the cyclist throughout the city.
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Jamie Chung
Director: David Koepp
Running Length: 91 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: There are some movies that exist for pure pleasure – they don’t aim to change the world, change the genre, or change the general perception that certain movies should just be entertaining. With its flimsy plot, shallow character development, and general go-for-broke attitude Premium Rush is the latest example of such a film. It’s an end of the summer cloud of a film that is visual enough to keep you involved but quickly drifts away from your conscious thought.
If these types of genre films are made well, I find it hard to lay in any heavy criticism to them. It’s only the movies that are created in great earnest with loftier ambitions that critics sharpen their knives for. With a solid if familiar storyline and strong visual panache thanks to cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen, Premium Rush bursts out of the gate and never stops moving for its ninety-one minute running time.
Taking place over the course of one day, the film plays around with its non-linear structure to nice results. With a hint of Memento and a dash of Run Lola Run, it’s clear when the film is shifting and who we are supposed to be following. This allows gaps in the script to be filled in right when the film wants you to know something, keeping the audience from getting too far ahead of the actors on screen.
Director/screenwriter Koepp knows his way around a fast-paced script (Panic Room, Spider-Man, Jurassic Park, The Paper, and Death Becomes Her are just a few of his contributions) and he wisely keeps things moving at such a breakneck speed that the audience can’t catch their breath enough to cry foul on some inconsistencies in an otherwise tight script. It’s another film where the central trouble can be solved by the main character getting off his bike and going to the police station but where’s the fun in that?
Gordon-Levitt is still riding the high of his revitalized movie career and July’s The Dark Knight Rises. An affable and appealing actor, he anchors the film with a well-cast and believable take on a plucky bike messenger on the run from a dirty cop and various other shady characters. If anything, making the film must have been a good way to stay in tip top shape with his nearly constant presence pedaling his no-brake bike. I’m not sure if he’s big enough to open his own movie, but he makes a strong bid for A-list star here.
Less successful are the rest of the actors that Gordon-Levitt is surrounded by. The chief offender is Shannon as a dirty cop tracking down our bike messenger for reasons of his own. With a Mike Tyson high pitched squeak of a voice and wide-set, bug eyes that remind you of E.T., Shannon compensates for a poorly written character by making everything else about him too big. I get the impression Shannon took this one solely for the cash and his performance isn’t worth a nickel.
Ramirez and Chung play two women central to the story and do what they can with limited resources. Chung in particular has taken on a hokey Asian accent that feels like an ironic take rather than a realistic one. Since we know so little about our characters, the attempt to give them some depth takes you more out of the action than makes it clearer. The timeline shifts facilitate some of these shoe-horned moments but generally feel unnecessary.
A film that operates mostly in one gear, Premium Rush isn’t going to be a high-water mark for the Everyman Gets Chased formula film nor does it seem to want to. It’s a serviceably well paced trinket that gets the job done without much fuss. This one may be better enjoyed in the comfort of your own home but if you’ve seen everything else out there it wouldn’t be a terrible choice to make.