There are the seeds of a funny and exciting film buried within “Premium Rush.”
Instead, director David Koepp has made one long chase movie, with few comic moments and not that much excitement.
Sure, you’ll flinch a few times and, perhaps, cringe at moments of impact when bike meets motorized vehicle, sending a human form soaring. Indeed, the film starts with an image of the hero, Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), describing a lazy, slo-mo arc as his body flies casually through space before hitting the pavement with a painful thump.
But while Gordon-Levitt and others leave skin on the pavement, no one really seems to have skin in the game. Oh, sure, we’re told what’s at stake – but the stakes seem not particularly compelling. And so we’re left with lots of shots of Gordon-Levitt and his stunt-double zooming through traffic, dodging cars and pedestrians in what is obviously a series of well-choreographed set pieces which, while active, don’t really seem all that much like action.
Gordon-Levitt plays the last of the free-wheeling bike messengers, a guy who threw away a law degree from Columbia to spend his days chasing the adrenaline rush of, um, being a bike messenger. Yes, he’s the fastest, with his “fixee” – a single-geared two-wheeler with no brakes. Supposedly his purity of approach – and his addiction to adrenaline and to being the best – are meant to count as character attributes.
His last delivery of the day is a “premium rush”: a pickup at 116th Street and Broadway that must reach its Chinatown destination in 90 minutes. (If you don’t live in Manhattan, well, that’s almost from one end of the island to the other, through the heart of Times Square in rush-hour traffic.)
Almost as soon as he makes the pickup of the envelope to be delivered, however, he’s accosted by a demanding cop named Monday (Michael Shannon), who asks for the envelope back. Wilee says no and takes off, triggering a chase because, well, Monday really wants that envelope.
This review continues on my website.