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Overall Rating

Awesome: 28%
Worth A Look56%
Average: 8%
Pretty Bad: 4%
Total Crap: 4%

3 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Premium Rush
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by Brett Gallman

"Forget it Joe, it's Chinatown."
4 stars

A movie centered around an innocent bike messenger unknowingly caught up in a web of conspiracy deserves a little bit of silliness and spirit, and David Koepp obliges by delivering a knowing bit of cartoonish pulp with “Premium Rush.”

A retro-styled man-on-the-run gimmick thriller, it embraces its gimmick with a breezy sense of propulsion; like its characters, it darts and weaves through geographic space and chronology to stitch together an improbably ridiculous tale about a bizarre afternoon in the life of Wiley (Joseph Gordon Levitt), an express New York City bike courier. A former law school attendee who dropped out just before taking the bar exam to avoid being stuffed into the suit and behind the desk for the rest of his life, he now risks life and limb for relative chump change. Scrapes, bumps, and bruises come with the territory, but the intrusion of a stranger (Michael Shannon) who wants the contents of his latest job sends him on an even more perilous run as audiences ponder just what he’s carrying.

“Premium Rush” is a bit of a connect the dots thriller that spins a tangled web around its central concept; while the film’s propulsion is somewhat stunted when it jumps back in time to fill in the blanks, it mostly spins with a sinewy, supple ease that embraces the inherent silliness of its concept. Wiley (obviously nicknamed “Coyote”) has a name that recalls Looney Tunes, and he’s obviously the Roadrunner who constantly evades and flusters his pursuer. As such, the film is infused with a live-action cartoon sensibility that delights in the absurd with parkour-styled bicycle theatrics, visceral stuntwork, and a madcap energy. It often stops just short of Shannon attempting to drop an ACME anvil on Gordon-Levitt’s head as the latter also contends with a persistent bike cop and his own rival bike messengers.

The two leads effortlessly shoulder a film whose script almost demands them to do so. A fine example of impeccable casting transcending papery characterization, Gordon-Levitt and Shannon form a pure Good Guy and Bad Guy duality that rightfully resists nuance. The former is one of our most affable rising stars, and the film coasts on his natural charisma. Eternally cool even when he’s forced to spit-out ridiculous one-liners (“brakes mean death” is his life philosophy), Gordon-Levitt charms and swaggers his way through the film with the right mix of brashness and likeability that make him a perfect “wrong man” caught up in ludicrous events.

Shannon, on the other hand, is one of Hollywood’s most malleable presences whose naturally exaggerated features lend themselves to the rubber-faced lunatic he plays here. His arresting bug-eyes often reveal a man who is desperate and deranged; if ever there were an actor fit to play a character with self-professed “impulse control issues,” it’s Shannon, who oscillates between goofy dolt and sinister brute with ease. Affecting an odd sort of Cagney-esque accent, he brings a weird, anachronistic sort of energy to the film with over-the-top displays worthy of classic gangster flicks.

This odd performance is finely calibrated, though, as “Premium Rush” unexpectedly echoes film noir; it’s the type of movie where cops are named “Monday” and ultimately involves gambling rackets, crooked cops, damsels in distress, smuggling, and even a showdown in Chinatown. Shannon’s character introduces himself as Forrest J. Ackerman, an obvious pseudonym borrowed from the famous pulp writer and B-movie aficionado. Spiritually, “Premium Rush” is a B-movie of the highest order, as it proceeds like a sunny, ten-speed noir whose twists and turns precisely unravel the film’s central mystery.

Above all, though, “Premium Rush” is a chase movie and a refreshingly stripped down one at that. The film is appreciably physical, shot in the tangible hustle and bustle of New York City, where Koepp constructs dynamic sequences that show off the impressive stunts and effects; instead of opting for faux vitality with nauseating camerawork, Koepp smoothly captures the street-level action without sacrificing coherence and geography. Stylish tics, such as Wiley’s ability to calculate the possible outcomes of his split-second decisions, further flavor the film with cartoon sensibilities as he imagines carnage set to the tune of Wilhelm screams and ragdoll physics.

With a wink and a nod to old-fashioned thrillers, Koepp directs an economical and boisterous film that invites audiences to essentially revel in watching Michael Shannon run off of a cliff before plunging to his doom; it should come as no surprise, then, that some of the film’s most amusing moments come when he’s realized the ground’s given way under him. There’s something charming about a film that’s dedicated to the express purpose of having a true bastard get foiled by a flash mob of bike messengers.

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originally posted: 08/24/12 15:37:50
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User Comments

8/27/13 Simon Recipe for a no-complaints thriller - tight, clever, gripping, amusing, and well-acted 5 stars
1/06/13 mr.mike It was "no bad". 4 stars
8/29/12 Delcia Pena The movie was alright. 3 stars
8/29/12 Pedro Rafael Cruz Fast as Hell-Loved it! 4 stars
8/28/12 Apollo It has all the right elements but ... not good. 1 stars
8/28/12 Jeff Lee No need to Rush to see this flick 2 stars
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  24-Aug-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 21-Dec-2012


  DVD: 18-Dec-2012

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