out of Five
Running time: 91
Enjoyable, fast-paced thriller that makes up for its plot deficiencies with sheer adrenaline and a pair of superb performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon.
What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by David Koepp, Premium Rush stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Wilee, a speedy New York bike courier who doesn't believe in brakes or gears and relies on his instincts to keep him collision-free on the streets. When he accepts the job of delivering an envelope from one end of Manhattan to the other for a friend (Jamie Chung), Wilee runs foul of twisted cop Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), who is determined to get his hands on the package by any means necessary.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is superb as Wilee, delivering a likeable performance that ensures that you root for him, no matter what your personal feelings towards velocity-chasing city cyclists might be. There's also strong support from Dania Ramirez and Wole Parks as Wilee's fellow couriers, but the film is completely stolen by Michael Shannon in full-on batshit-crazy mode (which for Michael Shannon is really saying something), seizing the opportunity to turn what could have been a routine villain character into a twitchy, giggling lunatic (the film allows Bobby to make a gag about Wilee/Wile E. Coyote, but really it's Shannon that's the Wile E. Coyote to Gordon-Levitt's Roadrunner).
Koepp's direction is energetic and fast-paced throughout, bringing a thrilling sense of speed and danger to the various bike chases and making good use of onscreen graphics. The script also includes a clever fast forward/rewind conceit that works for both Wilee mentally playing out possible route-taking scenarios and for a timeline-based structure that allows the story to cycle back and drop in explanatory gap-filling flashback sequences.
The main problem with the film is that the actual mechanics of the plot are a little disappointing; for one thing, the stakes aren't all that high (Chung's character could easily procure a replacement envelope, judging by a key scene) and the consequences of failure would only indirectly affect the main character. Similarly, it's the sort of film where characters repeatedly refuse to do the glaringly obvious; there's no reason Bobby can't just intercept the package at the destination, for example.
Despite its undercooked plot, Premium Rush is still enjoyable Friday night fun, thanks to pacey direction and superb performances from its two leads. Worth seeing.
Premium Rush (tbc)