Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Jamie Chung, Wole Parks
David Koepp. Wow, what a mixed bag this guy is. As a director he has given us Secret Window (which I unfavourably reviewed here), the pretty average Ghost Town, and the weird but not very good Stir of Echoes. That being said, he has been involved in the writing process of Jurassic Park, Carlito’s Way and Spider-man. Like I said, mixed bag.
His latest directorial delivery is Premium Rush, the Joseph Gordon-Levitt vehicle (or bicycle, if you will). This action-thriller tells the tale of a bike messenger who unknowingly picks up a valuable package, and is faced with a race against time to get to the drop off point, all the while being chased by a dirty cop (Shannon).
I have spoken at length about my admiration for Gordon-Levitt, and how I believe he is one of the finest actors of his generation. Indeed, without him starring in this film, I dare say it would have passed me by. To date, I have still not seen a trailer for the film, and the premise sounds all too familiar to me, albeit set on bikes rather than cars, boats, planes etc.
Luckily however I did see it, and have to see it’s pretty enjoyable. Whilst it does have the feel of a film where JGL and Shannon have sold out, by no means do either of them phone in their performance.
Gordon-Levitt, as the aforementioned cyclist Wilee, is his usual charming plucky self, battling his way across New York under extreme pressure. Additional kudos needs to be sent his way as well for the fitness he shows in Premium Rush. I don’t doubt alot of scenes may have featured a body double, but we do get to see plenty of occasions where he is cycling at maximum velocity for extended periods of time. This guy has stamina.
Shannon also does pretty well, even though it could be argued this is a role which is a little outside his comfort zone. To me Shannon is an exceptional method actor, who has yet to really become a household name such as Daniel Day-Lewis. I think he is at his best when he is being super intense, a la Boardwalk Empire and Shelter, but here we see only a fraction of that, combined with a slightly unhinged comedy. His “I’m chasing a bicycle! haha” line sets us up perfectly for what kind of character we are going to see, a pinch of Three Stooges, mixed Jack Nicholson. It works, it’s just not classic Shannon.
The rest of the supporting cast are pretty good too. Chung and Parks have characters which are a little two-dimensional, but they do well under the circumstances. Dania Ramirez plays the love interest well, with the troubled relationship between her and Gordon-Levitt being constantly referenced, but never really interfering with the main story, which adds depth to both characters without slowing down the film.
Style wise, an extra tip of the hat goes to Koepp who manages to take a lower budget movie and make it look a whole lot glossier than usual fayre. From the slick overhead 3D map of New York, to the Sherlock Holmes-esque ways that Wilee decides on his route through crowded traffic, Premium Rush attempts to separate itself from the best of the rest.
Also thrown in a generous use of flashback scenes to explain some of the mysteries, and you definitely have a film that, if nothing else, is full of ambition.
Ultimately, Premium Rush is a film that has two pretty solid lead performances and an interesting aesthetic, which belie the pretty run of the mill car/bike chase story. At a comfortable 90 minutes, it’s worth a watch when you got some time to kill.
Rating – 3.5 out of 5
Did you know? Gordon-Levitt was injured during filming when he was cycling too fast and hit the back of a taxi. The impact sent him flying into the rear windshield of the taxi, slashing his arm which required 31 stitches. A shot of the aftermath of that accident is included as a scene during the credits of the film.