Premium Rush (2012)
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Wole Parks, and Jamie Chung.
Directed by David Koepp
Editor’s note: We’re very happy to add yet another member to our team of enthusiastic cinephiles. Dustin SanVido, aka The Film Authority, is off the charts when it comes to enthusiasm and appreciation of modern movies. I have a feeling that when Ridley Scott or Chistopher Nolan become attached to a new project, Dustin knows what they will be directing before they do. Add to this enthusiasm some very entertaining writing, and I think Dustin will fit in just fine here at Entertainment Maven. I hope you enjoy his first review: Premium Rush.
Walking into Premium Rush I couldn’t help but feel that it was rife with potential. The cast is lead by Joseph Gordon Levitt and Michael Shannon, two personal favorites of mine. I don’t believe there are any other actors working today, with the lone exception of Gary Oldman, who can slip into a character with such ease that you forget you’re watching a performance. Watching these actors play with dialogue in any of their work is an utter joy, despite whether their characters tread softly or outright dive into a pool of madness.
Premium Rush is directed by David Koepp, a man whose talent for screenwriting has resulted in some of the great blockbusters of modern cinema, including Jurassic Park and Spiderman. His efforts behind the camera have been far more disjointed and uneven, but I laud him for trying different themes and genres to broaden his artistic pallet – for every Pitch Black there lies a Secret Window!
The premise of Premium Rush is simple enough. Wilee (JGL) is a law school dropout who has chosen the path of a bike messenger instead of taking the bar exam and beginning a mature adult life. He lives for the rush of bicycling into NYC traffic on a hot summer day with his secure goods in tow, while dangerously weaving through traffic with complete disregard for the safety of himself and others. In fact, this seems to be the unwritten code of all bike messengers in Premium Rush. He’s also in mid breakup/fight/make-up with his girlfriend Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), also a bike messenger, who is being comforted and consoled by Manny (Wole Parks), also a bike messenger and the foresworn rival of Wilee. Did I mention Manny refers to himself only in the third person for the duration of Premium Rush? (Yikes, this guy’s a badass).
Enter NYPD Detective Bobby Monday (Shannon), a good intentioned officer of the law whose penchant for gambling in low-rent Asian establishments and back-door gatherings has landed him in a rather large debt with the local mob. After detective Monday’s resistance to a simple non-payment beating ends up proving fatal for the opposition, Monday finds himself in hot water. To save himself he accepts a standing offer from his friend, a current member of said mob organization. Instructions are simple: retrieve a letter from a woman (Jamie Chung) across town and the debt is forgiven. Simple enough right?
What follows is a film that shows great disregard towards the most entertaining character (Monday) and instead focuses heavily on JGL’s Wilee. This would normally be more than enough for me, and it has in the past (see Jingle All The Way), but in this case there just isn’t enough to like about the protagonist, leaving the plot to spiral out of control with its unnecessary complexities and contrivances. Unfortunately, the fact that all of the exposition is revealed in backwards format becomes increasingly frustrating as the plot moves along, especially because of the predictability of the script.
During Premium Rush’s brisk running-time I found myself asking the same questions: Why must these bike messengers purposefully cause accidents that injure and cause pedestrians and drivers untold amounts of damage and tragedy, when following the rules of the road would get them to their destination nearly just as quickly? Why must Wilee stop mid-delivery to have a race with his rival through central park? Why must the detective allow the messenger to peddle away when he’s within arm’s reach so many times? Why must all the actors in the film of Asian descent speak with generic, forced, and shall I dare suggest borderline offensive accents? Finally, why is the protagonist’s name Wilee? I understand the joke, but his name CLEARLY should have been Road Runner with the detective taking the name ‘Wilee’.
And then there’s the bike messenger super sense (yes, you read that correctly). It seems Wilee has the power to slow down time and view all the outcomes of the directions he can choose with all the examples of potential vehicular manslaughter included. This was an interesting idea on paper, I’m sure, but the result is rather silly.
The few positives I can take away from Premium Rush are mainly due to the effective cinematography during the action sequences. The camera moves quickly and fluidly around the streets of Manhattan and I was genuinely thrilled by the stunt-work and speed of the sequences. I also enjoyed a scene in which Detective Monday interrogates Wilee in the back of an ambulance. This was the single moment in the film where a genuine sense of danger was created and I felt like something bad could realistically happen to our protagonist.
In the end, Premium Rush truly offers no surprises or anything fresh, and is anything but premium. Although I feel generally let down by his latest effort, I am excited to see what David Koepp has in store for his return to the world of Riddick. Joseph Gordon Levitt and Michael Shannon will also escape this film relatively unscathed as their stars continue to rise.