Premium Rush is a fast paced, two-wheeled action flick that blurs the line between character and concept. There’s no time for elaborate storytelling and hardly a frame goes by without some CGI chicanery or set up but the film is considerably more entertaining because of it. Thrown in and hanging on, we follow the handlebar view of a bike messenger living, breathing and imagining his way through the wild streets of New York in search of himself or maybe just the perfect ride. You could describe this simply as a bicycle movie with some action thrown in for interest and some sense of time, place and identity but this is more about the fleeting moments of our lives passing us by, whizzing side-view-mirror obstacles and near-death experiences than any meaningful ode on 21st century matters of the heart and soul. There are no finish lines or flashy answers to what troubles you in Premium Rush, no dating advice or practical instructions on how to ride or not to ride a fixed gear bicycle. The closest you come to learning anything comes from that tiny voice inside your head screaming at you to “GO FAST!”. So strap on the jet pack of whatever wheels can carry your imagination and escape the steering wheel or office cubicle before you get lost in the intersections of other people’s’ lives.
Premium Rush succeeds in flashy for the sake of whiz-bammery because it makes no promises, offers no reward but the thrill of stylish onscreen effects and cool overlays that snag your wandering eye. What differentiates this film from others is a sort of symphony of embellishment and action that supports shorter scenes with daring action payoffs. Of course we know where we’re going but it really is how we get there that matters in this film. It could be that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is thespian Du jour and the title comes with do-no-wrong free passes, or like other character shtick-flicks (such as his forgone conclusion in the film Hesher) it too shall lead to bigger and better films. One need only a cursory look at the career trajectories of other such recent nobles, Tom Hardy, Ryan Gosling and Shia Labeouf for instance to note when up is up and out is going, going almost but not quite gone – see John Travolta, et al. It is refreshing to find a film devoid of space invaders and secret agents, a story about people and their lives and the extraordinary things that sometimes interrupt the perfect staleness of normalcy. You could do a lot worse than PR and have before, surely to return sometime soon. For now enjoy the slick, down hill glide, the air of quick looks and steel wheel charms – you might just enjoy the ride.
Director and co-writer David Koepp, known perhaps best as the screenwriter of Jurassic Park, Carlito’s Way and Mission: Impossible (also, director for Stir of Echoes, Secret Window, Ghost Town) wisely invigorates the story with a lot of computer effects, elevating what could have become another tedious and humdrum character film. The great thing about the gimmickry is that it is consistent and just when you begin to tire of it the film comes to the end. This feels like the stutter-effect used by Guy Ritchie in Sherlock Holmes and the fight sequence of The Matrix. Surely we’d tire of much more but we’re awful content with what’s done. Concept films are rewarding in this way and especially for the reviewer who can wrap them up in a bow, say ‘see-it’ or ‘miss-it’ and really mean it with all the confidence the Hollywood machine promises these days. PR offers that rare treat of a movie that is what it is, a wild bike ride off the beaten path of character films and CGI darlings, combining them in a way that says it’s OK to meander, to delay and detour into a world that looks a lot like our own but with better editing choices.
Concept films tend to start fast and end in a flurry, get the trickery out front and ride it for as long as possible, preferably well into the second act, hopefully at the doorstep of the point of no return. If it works, and everyone prays it does, you’re vested enough to stick around and see what happens. Speeding cars and angry, over-caffeinated drivers, the prototypical New York slalom course without the snow and pine trees is like a pinball machine with lots of lights, whistles and buzzers. The scenes in Premium Rush are short and better for it, the characters given just enough line work to stand out but not get in the way. Gordon-Levitt is the star and his glow overtakes everyone else, even Michael Shannon who seems as of late to be on his own downhill trajectory right out of the movie biz. PR gives us the shiny magazine ad glimpse into the bike messenger world with just enough jargon and special instructions to feel like we belong, to feel like we’ve got enough info to swap hellos at the local biker bar – even if the info would get most a chuckle, snort and grimace of posers-don’t-roll, man! So we pick up quick with the local crazy, a ‘fixie’ rider, the kind of bike that gets people killed and pissed off but not necessarily at the same time. Wilee (Gordon-Levitt) rides a rocket ship, a single-gear bike with no brakes, and it is this sense of chase and follow that underscores and even elevates plot and story. One thing invariably leads to another, one broken romance means good cops and bad cops have missions too and hopefully, necessarily things will come crashing together and leave you wanting more.
Related reviews, side-liners and sliders..
- Premium Rush (2012) (myfilmviews.com)
- The Top Gun of Bike Messenger Movies: (scene-stealers.com)
- Premium Rush: (themondaymovieshow.com)
- Review~ Bike Messengers Rock, Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Michael Shannon – More Than Exciting; Premium Rush (marcwinger.com)
- English Movie Premium Rush (2012) (dewdropzone.com)
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt To Star In ‘Sin City: A Dame To Kill For’ (screencrave.com)