Spinning right off the successes of the Olympics, Tour de France and Vuelta a España, Premium Rush is a cyclic action romp which attempts to be the end of summer blockbuster but falls short of the finish line.
Like the rebellious fighter pilots of the late, great Tony Scott’s Top Gun, Premium Rush centres it’s macho-mentality on a NYC bike messenger subculture. The money may be measly and the risk of death at the workplace incontestably high, but the thrill-seeking danger is too for these competitive idiots to step away from.
Only they’re not all idiots. Not content with a prestigious law degree, Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has a need for speed and a reckless dislike for brakes and gears. That’s right, we’re dealing with a fixie-riding hipster.
The fastest messenger in the city, his boss sends him out an envelope pick-up and delivery job that has to be completed in 90 minutes or less. An assumedly easy task for the adrenaline junkie, the envelope picks up the attention of corrupt NYPD detective Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), who intends to use its contents to pay off a harsh gambling debt he’s stuck in. Once Wilee confronts Bobby, a chase ensues between the two for who can keep control over the item in transit. The cat-and-mouse game soon attracts the attention of other cyclists – particularly a do-gooding cycling cop, and rival messenger Manny (Wolé Parks) trying to earn the heart of Wiley’s girlfriend Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), once again, yet another city cyclist.
Hardly a film which is fuelled on thespian talent, Levitt is believable as the no-nonsense cycling renegade, even if he is barely given the opportunity to step off the bike and give us something with punch and brawn. Michael Shannon gives his best Nicholas Cage impression as the zany, unpredictable cop with a vendetta against the world. The usually stoic character-actor relishes being the most flamboyant man on the screen; injecting some desperately needed life into the clichéd chase format.
As the man who penned some of Brian de Palma’s greatest, latter period work (Snakes Eyes, Mission:Impossible), it’s a shame that director and co-writer David Koepp’s script is filled with hackneyed action-thrillers conventions that sees Levitt’s aptly named Wilee (yes, like the coyote) turn into the unsuspected hero with a moral high ground, destined to win back the girl of his dreams by the end of the film’s questionably short running time.
Thankfully, Koepp soon realises that for audiences to ignore the plot holes and hammed-up supporting cast performances he needs to deliver on the film’s promising moniker with punchy, edge of your seat action. With an eye for visceral chase sequences, a camp-to-the-max, menacing Shannon and a host of very talented stuntmen
running cycling riot around NYC, Koepp just about manages to deliver the goods. Fast, frenzied, but ultimately forgettable.