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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Movie Review: PREMIUM RUSH


"I like to ride. Fixed gear. No brakes. Can't stop. Don't want to, either."
-- Wilee

Premium Rush is a 2012 action thriller directed by David Koepp that focuses on a group of bike messengers making a living on the fast-paced streets of New York City. We meet a young cyclist named Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a former law student, who uses his job as a bike messenger to supply him with an ample number of thrills in his life. His fellow messenger and girlfriend Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) thinks he has a death wish with the way he rides, but Wilee simply thinks he lives for the rush. After losing out on one delivery, Wilee asks his boss to give him another route before the end of the day, and he luckily receives one last job from his friend Nima (Jamie Chung), who needs an envelope delivered to Chinatown by seven o'clock that night. After he picks up the envelope, however, Wilee is confronted by a mysterious man (Michael Shannon), who continually attempts to steal the envelope from him. As the clock continues to race toward his deadline, Wilee begins to piece together a much larger plot into which he has unwillingly been made a pawn.

When I first heard about this film, I was immediately drawn to it based solely on the fact that Gordon-Levitt would star. Arguably my favorite actor at the moment, I'll go out of my way to see any of his films, and seeing as Premium Rush is arguably the biggest release this weekend, there really wasn't much debate as to what I would be seeing. Although I wasn't really expecting it to be a brilliant film, I did hope that it would at least be entertaining, and the early, mostly-positive reviews helped quell any real fears I had going in.

What Premium Rush ultimately offers is a fast-paced, action-packed, end-of-the-summer thrill ride. The storyline doesn't necessarily offer much, although it does allow for a number of moderately emotional scenes and concepts, but at the end of the day, it's a basic and rote screenplay that doesn't truly offer anything utterly brilliant. What sets Premium Rush apart is the stylistic power of the direction and the cast itself.

Let's start with our actors, shall we? Now, I have to be honest and say that I do have a bit of a man crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and thus far in his film career, I have yet to see him do any wrong. He's managed to create so many different characters, and his Wilee in Premium Rush is no exception. This may be the most "badass" he's gone thus far in his career (although that's sure to be challenged by the soon-to-be-released Looper), and he plays the part perfectly. I also have to applaud Shannon, who is generally a hit-or-miss actor for me. While I thought Shannon was brilliant in the 2010 film The Runaways, I wasn't sold on his bit part in 2008's Revolutionary Road. With him, it always goes back and forth. At the start of Premium Rush, I wanted to hate his character. It seemed over-the-top and ridiculous, but as the film continued forth, I think it made a little more sense. By film's end, I truly thought he was a great antagonist for a picture like this. It worked well. The rest of the cast fills out quite nicely, but the best scenes come between Gordon-Levitt and Shannon. That's where the meat of this film lies.

But aside from all of that, what truly makes Premium Rush a success is its stylistic production. For starters, setting the story against the backdrop of New York City, one of the fastest-paced cities in the world, was a perfect decision. Having visited New York on a number of occasions, I know just how hustle-bustle those streets can get, and to see bicyclists moving even faster in order to make their deliveries seems incredible. The setting helps make the film seem like its moving even faster than it is, and that works in this film's favor. Because it's not offering a brilliant screenplay or Oscar-winning performances, it has to rely on its ability to grab hold of its viewer and its ability to keep that viewer engaged. And from the very start, Premium Rush does just that. Once it grabs hold, it never once takes it foot off the pedal, so to speak. And that rush of exhilaration is what makes it so darn good.

To sum things up, Premium Rush is the ideal type of end-of-the-summer cinema fare. It's not a film that's too deep to understand, but it's also not too dumb to make it unwatchable. The story is strong enough to keep you caring, but it's the direction and the action that's going to keep you entertained. So sit back, relax and grab a bucket of popcorn because this is one wild ride.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: B+
Status: Should See

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