Red Wolf Review #1: Premium Rush (2012)

Being a delivery person in any manner can be a major pain. You work long hours, receive only meager pay, and hope the person you’re delivering to is merciful enough to include a tip of more than .50 cents in their payment. 

I experienced that world this summer as a pizza delivery guy in Jonesboro and the one Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Wilee lives in on the much larger scale of the streets of New York City as a bike messenger in David Koepp’s “Premium Rush.”

One of my first thoughts about this film, which was originally scheduled to be released in January of this year, was that the idea of bike messengers doesn’t make a lot of sense in a world where email exists. However, any sort of questions about that went out the window soon after the movie started. Bike messengers are meant for the important deliveries. The ones you don’t want getting lost in cyberspace or any prying eyes to look at. That’s where Wilee and his merry band of fellow messengers come in.

Wilee is a former law school student who can’t stand the thought of working at a job that requires a suit or sitting at a desk. Being a messenger gives him to the freedom to be constantly moving, out in the city, where anything can happen. His “don’t stop” philosophy is exemplified by his refusal to have break or gears on his bike.

When Wilee has to deliver an envelope for Nima (Jamie Chung), friends from his college days, his talents are pushed to the limits, thanks to a narratively helpful time limit on his mission.

The film’s biggest strength as well as its most glaring weakness is its pacing. For most of the film, Wilee is being chased by dirty cop Bobby Monday, played by Michael Shannon. The chases are more then enough to make the film worth seeing, with writer and director David Koepp expertly maneuvering the camera through the streets of Manhattan. If anyone knows how to utilize New York to make it its own character, it’s Koepp, wrote the screenplay for “Spider-Man” (2002).  However, Koepp also implements what would usually be one of my favorite story telling devices, the flashback, to tell you why Monday is chasing after Wilee.

The way the film is structured, you unfortunately need most of the flashbacks to understand character motivations. Some of the flashbacks are interesting, but most of them are too long for their own good or irrelevant (one shows how Wilee came into possession of his bike), which made me restless to get back to the chase through the streets.

Shannon shines as corrupt NYPD cop Bobby Monday.

 

While the film was marketed around the growing star power of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the one who really earns his paycheck here Shannon. This was my first exposure to the actor and I can’t wait to see more. He eats up every scene he’s in and masterfully plays a two-faced cop who needs to pay off a gambling debt to some Chinese mob bosses or suffer the consequences. If I had to compare his performance to another it would have to be to Randall from Pixar’s “Monster’s Inc” (2001). I know that might seem like a big jump, but that’s the image that jumped into my head. One scene involving a Chinese phone book is Shannon’s and the film’s best, it turns the character of Monday on a dime from a low life police enforcer to a dirty cop who knows how to take care of himself. What made me enjoy Shannon’s role, is that it’s a tiny glimpse at what to expect from his portrayal next summer as General Zod in Zach Snyder’s Superman reboot, “Man of Steel.”

While Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fast becoming a recognizable star thanks to movies like “The Dark Knight Rises,” his role as Wilee isn’t his best role. He’s is entertaining at times, but there’s only so much you can do when you spend the majority of your movie being chased on a bike. Supporting actors include Dania Ramirez, who some may remember for her largely despised role as Maya on the second and third season’s of NBC’s “Hereos;” Wole Parks as Manny, Wilee’s rival and Aasif Mandvi as Wilee’s boss. 

If you have any interest in bike stunts, you’ll get plenty of that here. If you’re a film junky like me with a soft spot for movies with a good MacGuffin, then you should give Premium Rush a chance. It’s not perfect, and its own ambitious story telling gets in the way of itself at times. As the summer comes to its conclusion, “Premium Rush” gives the audience some an entertaining ride, with pursuits both big and small (an over zealous bicycle cop has some great moments). 

Verdict: Rent

Leftover Thoughts:

  • If you have any idea what the “Wilhelm Scream” is, then you will get a kick out of how it’s used here.
  • Looking at Koepp’s filmography, you have to be impressed by his writing record: “JurassicPark” (1993), “Mission Impossible” (1996), “War of the Worlds (2005) and the very underrated Ricky Gervais comedy “Ghost Town.” “Premium Rush” doesn’t make it to their heights.
  • My initial ranking of “Premium Rush” at the website www.flickchart.com is 314th out of 786 movies and it’s my 11th favorite film from 2012 out 22 seen so far.
  • I feel like this movie is really a kind of marriage between “16 Blocks” and the Road Runner cartoons.
  • When I went to see “Premium Rush,” I once again saw the trailer for the cop drama “End of Watch.” I think I’ve seen this trailer every time I’ve been to the movies this summer and I for one never want to see it. The same thing happened with “Brave.” Have you ever seen a trailer for a movie so many times you swore you’d never see it?
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About Daniel McFadin

NASCAR writer for NBCSports.com. Former Sporting News intern. Graduated from IUPUI in Indianapolis with a master in sports journalism in 2014 and from Arkansas State University in 2013 with a degree in Journalism. Originally from Lewisville, Texas, now in Fort Worth. Ask me if I like Star Wars. I dare you.
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