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Premium Rush - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Premium Rush
Directing: B-
Acting: B
Writing: C
Cinematography: B-
Editing: C+

Here is the rare case of a movie a lot of critics seem to be giving a pass, and I just don't get it. Switch bikes for cars -- instead of the other way around -- and you've got a movie just like a zillion others. Honestly this is beneath Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He's the only genuine star seen in this movie, after all. The most well-known person other than Gordon-Levitt is Take Shelter's Michael Shannon, and who the hell knows who he is?

The premise: a lottery ticket worth $50,000 needs to get from one end of Manhattan to the other in the next ninety minutes, to help pay for a woman's son to get shipped to the U.S. from China. Said woman hires a bike courier service, "Premium Rush," and the guy on the job is daredevil cyclist Wilee (Gordon-Levitt). Under normal circumstances he'd make the delivery without a hitch, except he's being chased by a dirty cop (Shannon) who knows about the ticket and wants to snatch it to pay a huge gambling debt. And just to make things a little more fun, Wilee keeps having run-ins with an NYPC bicycle cop (Christopher Place) who is trying to flag him down after he causes an accident and breaks several other laws.

That's all fine and good; I don't care that much that the plot is so flimsy, really. Like most people, I'm here to see some exciting bike chases on the streets of Manhattan. And that plot, indeed, exists solely as an excuse for all these chase scenes to happen.

Except, maybe bike chases just can't really be as exciting as car chases after all. Actually they probably can be, if done the right way. But director David Koepp doesn't quite pull it off. There's just a bit too much hokiness here, and everything -- and I mean everything -- is acutely contrived. Consider Wilee's bike messenger friends: all predictable, one-dimensional characters; one a girlfriend who is angry at Wilee for missing her graduation in favor of participating in a race; another a rival who stokes the fires of competitiveness. Extending even to crowd scenes of other bike messengers in bars, it's easy to imagine a real-life New York bike messenger having instant contempt for this movie. Down to the last extra, these are all Hollywood versions of bike messengers, conceived by movie makers who think they know what will look cool, not one of them ringing true to life.

Premium Rush thinks it's casting these bike messengers as subversive, counter-culture heroes. When the dirty cop says to Wilee, "This city hates you," he's representing the world in a bike-messengers-vs-the-world scenario. But it doesn't really fly. Am I really supposed to think of Wilee as a cool guy just because he can't work a job that requires a suit and he refuses to put brakes on his bike? Apparently: in one scene, the breaks on his girlfriend's bike cause her to crash (actually because she's going too fast) and she finally says, of the breaks, "Yeah I took that shit off."

We do get to see a lot of moderately neat tricks, mostly performed by Wilee: riding under a truck bed, jumping fences, riding over a line of parked cars. This movie can be entertaining if you turn your brain off. If you can't turn off your brain, you may have problems. Several times we see scenes of Wilee approaching an intersection crowded with both vehicles and pedestrians, and we see his brain working out at least three different routes he could take through them before figuring out which will result in no damage to himself or others. We're supposed to believe he works all this out in a split second as he's hurtling toward all these obstacles. And then, both he and other riders crash their bikes many times, almost never getting seriously injured even though they're flying over their handlebars.

Gordon-Levitt has his charms. For some reason he seems to be taking this part seriously. He's a good guy in a dumb movie. He doesn't quite save the movie, which isn't painfully terrible but is average at best. Had it been less contrived, had a better story, and even had a more realistic approach to the thrill of dangerous bike riding in Manhattan, it could have been so much more. But, you know, so much for that.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt doesn't go anywhere new in PREMIUM RUSH.

Overall: C+
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