A bicycle action film? Really? That was the same thing I said when I saw the initial trailer from “Premium Rush“. Whoever made the pitch to the studios must have some amazing verbiage skills because the film, even though it offers plenty of action, it is not persuasive enough to be credible or enthralling.
The absurd premise has New York as background, where a messenger named Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is chased throughout the city by a dirty cop (Michael Shannon) before Wilee delivers a mysterious envelope to Chinatown by 7pm.
The film has some problematic tangents. The first is the concept of bicycle messengers. There are few cities that can offer such a business, such as New York, but Los Angeles nor London can. The infrastructure of their streets does not allow it. Will residents of provinces or suburbs be interested or connect with the storyline? If we who live in the Big Apple don’t care at all, I can’t see middle America doing so either.
Secondly, it seems silly to think that a film about bicycles can develop suspense, tension and excitement. If you think about it, the worst that can happen if a bike hits me at full speed is a break a bone. I’ll survive. It’s very similar to what happened to filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan in “The Happening“. Was I supposed to have nightmares about a few trees?! The gaul.
If I have to compliment something from “Rush” is the action. It is relentless. The escape sequences are very swift and can even entertain to a degree, but after the first hour it becomes monotonous because there is only so much juice one can squeeze from cycling? Director David Koepp, who is a very technical director, has yet to learn how to inject emotion into these scenes. The chase sequences are visually appealing, but they fail to make us give a hoot. You want to know what great chase scenes are? Watch “The French Connection” or even “We Own the Night“. Those two really are memorable.
In terms of performances, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, star of the film and an actor who has had an excellent streak of wonderful and memorable movies with the likes of “Inception”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, “(500) Days of Summer”, “50/50” and the future releases of “Looper” and “Lincoln” by Steven Spielberg, does not connect here. It isn’t because he is a bad actor, it is that director Koepp’s script does not allow him nor the rest of the cast to showcase their skills. The star in truth is the action.
Michael Shannon, the antagonist to Gordon-Levitt, is a very peculiar actor. The man seems crazy, but you can always count on him to delivers memorable performances. Just watch his scenes in “Revolutionary Road” with Leonardo DiCaprio. The Dominican actress Dania Ramirez, who is always compared with Zoe Saldana, has plenty of screen time, but does little for one to remember her performance, then again what do you expect from a “cycling action movie”? I am sure that her persistence will lead to a role where she can shine.
In short, I give “Premium Rush” an A for effort and creativity, but perhaps Koepp was the wrong guy to direct. The film felt forced and manufactured. Does it deserve to be seen you might ask? Perhaps out of curiosity, but not for its entertainment value.