Premium Rush

Premium Rush

Premium Rush’s opening scene literally throws us into the proceedings, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Wilee (“like the Cayote”, someone says) taking a fall from his bicycle and landing on his behind. Everything then flashes backward to take us to the start of what lead to that scene. You know what kind of film this is already, you think to yourself – zippy, fast paced, probably fun. Premium Rush surprisingly lives up to all of those descriptions, despite its surface level familiarity, and yet manages to entertain, often thrill, while offering a peek into the dangerous lives of bicycle messengers in New York.

Wilee, we learn, is a law school dropout who hates the idea of wearing suits. His salvation comes from riding his worn out bike for Security Courier, who specialise in ensuring the delivery of packages, mails and letters the good old fashioned way. On the day we meet him, Wilee is tasked with delivering a parcel to an address in Chinatown by 7pm, but is soon stopped and eventually pursued by  Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), a dirty NY cop who poses as a campus security officer. In his single minded determination to deliver the package, Wilee works by one code – once the package is in his satchel, it must be delivered to its intended recipient. Bobby of course will have none of it and the rest of the film is a nonstop, sometimes relentless chase as the clock keeps ticking.

Director David Koepp, best known for scripting thrilling, often convoluted tentpole films, does his best work so far behind the camera. Visually enthralling, the film turns moments such as Wilee making a decision about where to turn while riding his bike out of troubled hotspots at breakneck speeds, into a series of goofy, cartoonish what-if scenarios where each of the alternative decisions may result in him involved in some sort of collision. Employing minimal effects, the scenes of bicycles whizzing through the notoriously busy New York streets dodging cars, cabs and humans is handled marvelously well, though you’d wish Koepp was as inventive as say someone like Danny Boyle. Still, even though he exercises restraint and never goes over the top, Koepp makes it apparent that Wilee and his ilk, in their thrill seeking ways, are more a hazard to themselves than to others.

Sharing writing duties with John Kamps, Koepp sticks to his usual approach of keeping the script non-linear but the story, which almost unfolds in real-time with a few quick flashback detours, soon reveals itself to be simple and straightforward. As a concept, Koepp’s handling of the seemingly obscure subculture of bikers isn’t as fascinating as it is entertaining. Shannon does his best Nicolas Cage impersonation, but his lanky, dim-witted policeman who has an irrepressible gambling problem and “impulse control” issues comes across as more ludicrous than menacing. Despite this, Koepp keeps all the other parts of the film well oiled and the confrontational situations engaging. The overall product may not exactly be of premium quality but it provides the requisite rush.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and