In Premium Rush, Joseph Gordon-Levitt of The Dark Knight Rises is a New York City bike messenger racing for his life across the minefields that are the city’s streets. When he unwillingly transports some sensitive information that a crooked cop (Michael Shannon) needs destroyed, he must get to the bottom of the situation that is now hitting him harder than a Manhattan cab. Sounds like a premise for quite a cinematic thrill ride, doesn’t it?
Our Premium Rush review arrives somewhere near the middle of the pack in terms of solid suspense thrillers. Co-writer and director David Koepp has painted a picture of Manhattan unlike we’ve ever seen. Through the eyes of one-third of those seeking to transverse the urban jungle each day, the scene is set for the thriller. The director uses GPS images, text and ever-accelerating camera movement to paint the landscape of the city at its most uniquely frantic.
We learn early on through Gordon-Levitt’s character that simply grabbing a package and delivering it from point “A” to point “B” is a potentially life-threatening journey dodging people on bikes, clueless pedestrians and determined motorized vehicles. Imagine if something you were transporting, some bad people wanted very badly? Toss that into the mix of racing across New York on two self-powered wheels and a unique survival story is born.
Shannon and his criminal cop are not the messenger's only hazard. In Koepp’s hands, the audience is pulled visually into situation after situation where the price of going so fast so unprotected is painfully clear. A cab changing lanes could kill. A woman on foot crossing illegally could forecast serious injury.
When it comes to the film acting, Gordon-Levitt is terrific and his fellow cycling compatriots are highlighted with terrific turns by Dania Ramirez and Wole Parks.
Shannon is one of the great film villains of 2012. He has such fun with the role, the feeling that Shannon is the perfect Zod in the Superman re-boot has only intensified. Yes, he chews the heck out of the scenery, but does so in a way that is perfectly in tune with Premium Rush’s tone.
The problem with the film is how it misses the mark plot-wise. In many ways it does not have all its dots connect with any kind of emotional power. Premium Rush is a series of action sequences with meek emotional moments sprinkled throughout. The film needs more to hold it together. That said, the sequences with the actors, helmet on, riding through the most populous city in America are uncanny.
The way that Koepp has filmed his movie, taking the viewer along for the ride, as seen in the Premium Rush trailer when a van collides with a cab, the danger feels all too real. For that reason alone, the film is one fun ride.