I’m not going to kid a kidder, Premium Rush is a filler film Hollywood uses until November rolls around and they start to debut their holiday releases. Made for 35 million Premium has an independent budget in comparison to the typical Columbia Pictures fair. I dare speculate that the majority of the production cash went for the permits needed to film all over Manhattan. However that doesn’t make it a bad movie, in fact it is fun if viewers keep their expectations to a smaller scale.
Premium Rush stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bike messenger in this day and age of texts and emails. An average work week for him is four hundred dollars take home; the upside is that he never has to wear a suit. The story establishes early that Wilee is a law school graduate who has yet to take the bar exam. He also is, as typical of all action movie heroes, a rebel who enjoys speeding around New York on a bike that doesn’t have breaks – he believes that breaks were the reason for his last crash. Sure, Wilee could come off as a tool but Gordon-Levitt makes him likeable. Granted the portrayal of bike messenger subculture is meant to make the cyclists look like individualistic road warriors as if delivering packages is akin to keeping America safe for democracy but thankfully the action focuses the audience away from the lamer plot points.
Wilee is having a bad day. It looks like his girlfriend is on the verge of leaving him and his last package was absconded by his main rival who is anxious to race him through Central Park to settle who really is the bees’ knees when it comes to package delivery. He is sent on a last minute run to retrieve an envelope from his girlfriend’s soon to be ex-roommate who specifically requested his services. Within minutes of taking procession of the envelope mystery sets in when Wilee finds himself being harassed and hunted by a member of New York’s finest.
Director David Koepp (who also wrote the screenplay with John Kamps) did a nice job with the non-lineal storytelling. Frankly, I don’t think the plot would have worked if it was told from straightforward point of view. By adding character motivations after the fact gave the movie an edge. (It should be noted that Koepp, Kamps, and Sony are being sued for copyright infringement over the movie’s storyline.)
Of course what really makes Premium Rush sing are the fun sequences featuring cyclists weaving in and out of New York traffic. I don’t think real bicycle delivery service people are such daredevils in real life although I have heard a lot of NYC natives complain about their antics. I concede it would put anyone’s teeth on edge if it was common for cyclists to pedal in lanes of traffic traveling in the opposite direction not to mention a tendency to breeze by pedestrians and cars alike where an ideology of speed trumps safety. Bike messengers also have to hope no one turns left instead of walking straight or a vehicle doesn’t speed up to make the light because their lives may just depend on spit second decisions.
Premium Rush isn’t a movie one needs to see in a theater in order to appreciate it. I’m sure it will play well on DVD and cable. It is a small film best seen on a slow night. It is a good choice for a date, something to see with friends, or to take the kids.