Review: Premium Rush

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Premium Rush"Fixed-gear, no brakes, can't stop, don't want to either" -- Watching Premium Rush, my first thought was that it seemed somehow familiar. That may be because it brought to mind the short-lived 1995 sitcom Double Rush, which featured an opening-credit sequence shot by Spike Jonze. Watch it at the end of this review and compare it with the Premium Rush trailer. Purely coincidence, no shared DNA here besides the shared bike messenger subject material, but an interesting comparison.

Eighteen years later, David Koepp has directed an exciting flick that unlike its sitcom sister takes place almost entirely on two wheels. Written by Koepp and John Kamps, who previously collaborated on Zathura, the movie Premium Rush takes its name from the highest-priority delivery service (just like Double Rush). The story centers around one particularly important delivery and the efforts Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character Wilee must make to see it through to the destination.

What should be a simple pickup and dropoff is complicated by a rival messenger who wants to steal Wilee's girlfriend, a bicycle cop who wants to shut him down and one very bad villain who wants the contents of that envelope. Michael Shannon plays this last role with frightening intensity. If he had looked straight at the camera, I would have feared to look back.

Wilee is a live-fast, party-hard anti-establishment hipster law school graduate who refuses to take the bar exam because he doesn't want to live his life stuck behind a desk.  He almost never stops moving through a film that looks as slick as a Fedex commercial. It's a great role for Gordon-Levitt, though the impressive bike riding involved the support of five doubles (one for stunts/crashes, one for tricks, etc.) collectively making him look like the Superman of bike riding.

Unfortunately, the conclusion of Premium Rush, after so much action, slows to a crawl and puts back on the training wheels. The promise of a "flash mob" yields something somewhat less satisfying (read: underwhelming) and the best stunts are confined to the middle of the film.  So, this movie isn't quite a "'premium" experience, though it's still fun, light-hearted entertainment with some great action.