August 26, 2012

Movie Review: Premium Rush

Premium Rush is a film bursting at the seams with kinetic energy. It is a non stop race through the streets of New York. It is a movie that takes the typical chase formula and does a little tweaking, making it feel fresh and exciting. In short, this is a better movie than it had any right to be. I went in hoping for a fun diversion and what I got was something more. I am not saying it is a great film, but there is enough quality that it cannot be ignored.

As the end of the summer season races up to greet us, Premium Rush arrives in theaters hoping to outrun the inevitable for just a little bit longer. Co-writer/director David Koepp employs a team of stunt riders, solid leads, and gives the standard tale enough visual gloss to make this better than your average cinematic filler.

As the movie opens, we meet Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he sails in slow motion through the air, having just been struck by a cab. As he lies on the pavement, dazed, time rewinds to earlier in the day. This is a technique used throughout as the story is not told in chronological order. It is used effectively, allowing the important information to be doled out in intervals where it can have the most impact.

In any case, the plot is simple enough. A Chinese immigrant has worked three jobs in order to earn enough money to bring her young son to America. This money is not transferred through normal channels, rather through the Chinese underworld by way of a marked movie stub, which acts like a receipt. It has to be delivered by a certain time so the young woman, Nima (Jamie Chung), hires a bike messenger to deliver it across the city. As it turns out, there is another party interested in that ticket, a corrupt cop (Michael Shannon), he has gotten in deep gambling debt and this ticket would square him with the Chinese gangsters.

All of that is just the window dressing for the real star of the show. The biking is exhilarating. We are put right down on the streets with them as the pedal their way ever faster through the streets, down alleys, through stores, and around pedestrians. Gone are the usual car chases and explosions usually found in high octane thrillers these days. In there place are steel frame bikes with no gears and no brakes. There is no slowing down, no stopping, and a whole lot of danger.

Wilee is said to be the best, which is why Nima requested him specifically. He is chased by Bobby Monday (Shannon), a bike officer, and fellow riders through the streets. The movie amounts to one long chase sequence. It may not e particularly special, but it is heart pounding and there is a lot of fun to be ad watching these bikes zoom around, the skill needed to avoid crashes and the daredevil-like talents put on display.

The performances are better than needed for a movie like this, and I am not complaining. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has fast become a must see actor for me. Even in lower profile films like this, he brings something to the role, an engaging screen presence, an easy believability, he makes the movie worth being invested in. On the flip side, Michael Shannon is one intense individual and has proven himself to e a o to person when you need someone to be go over the edge. Shannon's Monday is a crazy individual and I have no doubt believing in his madness. He is rather adept at playing intense roles and is another reason why his movie works as well as it does.

I really liked this movie. The plot may be standard stuff but the execution and energy brought by everyone involved elevates the material to another level. This is exciting stuff. The material is fluffy, but the excitement is real and there is an emotional investment to be had. This is certainly a movie to send time with.


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