There have only ever been two movies I went into with 0 expectations. The first was District 9, and now Premium Rush.
I’m thinking I need to do this more often, as I’m starting to notice a pattern.
A very good pattern.
Premium Rush stars Joseph Gordon Levitt as Wilee, a bike messenger in Manhattan, NY who is a serious adrenaline junky with a law degree. Wilee recently graduated from law school and decided to put the bar exam on hold in order to be paid to ride his bike around Manhattan at an alarmingly fast speed delivering packages.
And that’s truly all you need to know about Wilee as a character. He’s surprisingly one-dimensional, but it totally works. Premium Rush knows the exact kind of movie it wants to be and never compromises that. A fast-paced action/comedy with great lead roles and fantastic writing. It plays to all of those strengths almost constantly.
Joseph Gordon Levitt is really showing his acting chops lately by taking on more roles at once than Nick Cage. Only JGL does it well (sorry Nick). Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, and now Premium Rush (and soon Looper, which I’m all but drooling over). He pulls off the carefree spirit of Wilee perfectly and never loses focus of his character. Wilee has almost 0 depth to his character. We scratch the surface in a few personal scenes, but nothing too major. But that’s somehow OK here. I didn’t care about where he’d been, what his plans are, or who the man he wants to be is. I wanted to watch this kid go down Broadway at 40 MPH weaving between cars and almost getting killed several times. And Premium Rush delivers on all fronts in that regard.
Our antagonist is Bobby Monday, played by Michael Shannon, a corrupt cop with some serious gambling problems and some prescription grade sociopathic tendencies. He’s out to pay back some underground Chinese gambling mob a pretty large outstanding debt. He sees his easy score in Wilee’s parcel, and decides to go after it. I won’t tell you too much else about his character other than the fact that he’s absolutely hilarious. If you enjoyed Happy Gilmore’s “Shooter McGavin,” you’ll love this guy. He’s a quirky villain with a one-track mind and Shannon delivers his lines perfectly.
There’s also a bike cop who I just can’t help but feel sorry for. He’s completely outclassed by these bike messengers and he knows it, but he just keeps on trying because it’s his job. The interactions between Wilee and this bike cop are some of the best in the film. Innocent humor and great writing all wrapped in a nice little package.
Surprisingly, my favorite part of the movie was the riding. The stunt riding was outrageously good. It was like David Koepp went to the X Games and picked out some of his favorites to come help with this movie. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot I can talk about regarding these stunts without spoiling some of the best parts of the movie, so suffice to say it was superb.
A close second to the stunt riding is the structure. Premium Rush takes on a flashback approach to story-telling. No, not in the same way Lost used flashbacks. This time, whenever you flash back, the story is told from a different perspective in order to fill in some of the plot holes you could originally begin to take note of in the very beginning of the film. The whole film takes place over a 2 hour span, but you jump around enough to make the 2 hours seem completely full.
Premium Rush was in no way without it’s flaws, one of which being the shallow supporting cast. Wilee’s character was very easily established, but you never really felt connected to anyone else in the film. His girlfriend, Vanessa, also a messenger, has little to no depth, and somehow there’s a muscle-head third-wheel to this love connection in Manny. We never really delve into either character, and I wish we had a bit more to go on. But ultimately they were well-balanced enough in screen time to avoid negatively impacting the leading roles and plot.
There’s not much more to go over about this one, to be honest. It’s a good film that will make you sit on the edge of your seat, clap, and laugh on your entire ride home as you discuss your favorite lines with your movie friends or family.
If you came here looking for a recommendation, consider this mine. Go see this movie. It’s worth the theater tickets, worth the time, and definitely one of my favorite movies of the Summer.