Every summer we are introduced to some incredible blockbuster movies. Some are memorable and others, not so much. Some fly under the radar and surprise us at a time when we need a refreshing change. There is always a big push during the final weeks of the summer as movies fight for box office attendance. This summer has been nothing less than stellar with some of the blockbuster hits delivering in spades. But what about the smaller budget films, that aren’t Indie flicks, but aren’t of the $200 million dollar variety. Premium Rush falls somewhere in the middle of everything with a modest budget, by Hollywood standards. It’s a refreshing spin on the typical action movie genre by shifting focus onto an unlikely group of people; bike messengers.
Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Inception, 50/50) is a bike messenger who picks up an envelope that attracts the interest of a dirty cop. This dirty cop proceeds to chase Wilee through the streets of New York City. Wilee is the “top dog” bike messenger and a law school dropout seeking the ultimate rush. After seeing his friends graduate from law school, only to sit in an office all day, he realizes that is not for him. He prefers the adrenaline rush that comes with dodging death at every turn. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is really starting to make a name for himself and delivers, in convincing fashion, as the leading man in this action packed thrill ride. Joseph’s been in some huge blockbuster hits and other films that were less impressive, but he certainly does his part to carry this film.
Our antagonist, Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon – Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys II), is a dirty cop who’s down on his luck. An obsessive gambler who can’t ever seem to catch a break, then continues to dig himself deeper. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Bobby is made aware of an envelope that could solve all of his problems. Now, the only person standing in his way is Wilee. Michael Shannon plays a believable role in this film as you watch him destruct right before your eyes. One of the other bike messengers, who could almost be considered a quasi-antagonist is Manny (Wolé Parks – As the World Turns, Law & Order). Manny is in constant competition with Wilee, always trying to challenge him to something and trying to steal his girlfriend away. Wolé Parks does a great job adding humor to the film and turns in a great Type-A personality performance.
Given the concise timeframe of the film and the narrow scope, it’s incredible there were so many powerful performances in this film. The love interest/girlfriend of Wilee is Vanessa (Dania Ramirez – X-Men: The Last Stand, American Reunion). She’s a tough bike messenger and one of the better riders in the crew. Dania Ramirez does a nice job of balancing her tough chick role with moments of compassion and understanding. She’s a great fit for the role and helps make the movie what it is. Two smaller, but still important roles in the film were Nima (Jamie Chung – The Hangover Part II, Sucker Punch) and Campus Guard (Charles Borland – Homeland, Person of Interest). Jamie Chung delivers a convincing and emotional performance as a woman who’s torn between two worlds and the choices she is forced to make. Charles Borland gets an honorable mention for bringing to life a role that would have otherwise gone unnoticed in the film.
David Koepp co-wrote and directed Premium Rush, pulling off a film worth watching. David’s resume as a writer is quite incredible touting adaptation titles like Angels & Demons, War of the Worlds and Spider-Man. He has also written several recognizable original titles like Ghost Town, Panic Room and The Trigger Effect. While David has directed far fewer movies than he has written, it’s still an impressive list of titles. David Koepp was able to deliver a movie almost completely devoid of CG, but still pull off a modern day action thriller. The concept is fresh, the camera work is concise and the movie keeps your attention the entire time. The pacing of the film is such that there are only a few moments for you to catch your breath. The movie keeps you on the edge of your seat almost the entire movie.
The trailer for the movie is not misleading at all; you get what you are expecting. If you look beneath the surface you will see a lot more to this film than just bikes and bike messengers. This movie is an unexpected treat that delivers on action, drama and some emotional depth. For a fleeting moment, during some of the bike stunt scenes, there was a moment which seemed reminiscent of Rad (1986). Obviously this is a much different film, but bunny hops, grinds and slides bring back some of those childhood memories. Kudos to the whole cast and crew for pulling off something a little different and making it work well. The concept of an action/thriller bike messenger flick is fresh and makes this movie new and exciting.
For those of you seeking a new type of action film, look no further. Premium Rush is an action-packed thrill ride from start to finish. The movie only slows down long enough for you to comprehend the back story and process character development. In a day and age where new action flicks graces the big screen almost weekly, Premium Rush is a refreshing change. There are small things here and there that will undoubtedly be nitpicked, but if you enjoy the movie for face value it’s a good time.