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Saturday, August 25, 2012

[REVIEW] "Premium Rush" Heads Nowhere Fast

"I like to ride. Fixed gear. No brakes. Can't stop. Don't want to, either."

The summer film season always welcomes a slew of high-adrenaline chase scenes and action sequences. But rarely do we ever see them involving a bike messenger. And now we know why.

Two-time Golden Globe nominee (50/50, (500) Days of Summer) Joseph Gordon-Levitt headlines this summer Fast and the Furious on a bike movie, Premium Rush. The actors stars as Harvard law student-turned-bike messenger Wilee, whose task is to pick up and deliver an envelope from all the way uptown Manhattan to lower Manhattan in less than two hours on bike. The self-professed daredevil hops on his two-wheeler and rapidly pedals with amazing vigor to his pickup location. Along the way, the audience is treated to a master class in the day in the life of a bike messenger, which basically entails learning how to get from point A to point B as fast as you can with no brakes while disobeying all traffic and gravity laws.

The movie isn't any more interesting than that brief synopsis, except that director/co-writer David Koepp (Secret Window, Mission Impossible) tries to up the ante by having this particular envelope be one with potentially dangerous content. All of a sudden, Wilee is being chased down for the envelope by Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), a lunatic police officer. This is at the same time as he's being stalked by a cop on a bike (Christopher Place) who's after him on account of a legit traffic violation, and in the midst of a drawn-out argument with his fellow biker girlfriend, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez). But Wilee only has one thing on his mind--getting that envelope to its requested location (by any means and in record timing).

The pace of the movie is really fantastic, but once you get past that and realize you've been watching a 90-minute bike chase, which isn't nearly as thrilling as the trailer lets on, you begin to deflate. To make matters worse, later in the movie it's revealed what's in the envelope and the film just spins right off its wheels. It tries to become something that it's not--a nuanced crime drama--and ends up looking really silly in the process. On the one hand you've got a high-speed bike pursuit (that does succeed at spotlighting really pretty summer New York sights), and other the other hand you've got a pretty serious (non bike-related) situation going on with Vanessa's roommate Nima Jamie Chung) that's rather loosely tied with Wilee's task. But, really, it's better when you thought the movie was merely one of the straggling cycling events from this year's Olympics.

On the bright side, Gordon-Levitt definitely has the star power and charisma to hold this movie together, though it unfortunately seems like it was already brought to him in shambles. Koepp and John Kamps' (Ghost Town) screenplay is a disjointed mess that's better when it's racing through the streets of Manhattan with no dialogue. While it's cool that the film at least puts you in the driver's seat of a bike messenger--and the camaraderie one has with his fellow deliverymen--it does nothing else to sustain your attention, even with time-shifting elements. In addition, Shannon's cartoony cop is no highlight here either as the character seems as though he fell right out of the Looney Tunes skit. Shannon's usually spot-on talent does nothing to help it here.

The two supporting characters--Vanessa and Nima--are both carelessly written as well, but do manage to highlight two actresses that should probably be getting more acting work (Ramirez and especially Chung). However, that does nothing to elevate the movie, which speed races right to the edge of a cliff, then falls right off it.

Rating: D+


Dan O. said...

The script is absolutely horrendous and the cast tries their best with it, but it just ends up making this flick a very goofy, but somewhat fun action film that has a new take on the whole genre. Good review Candice.

Daniel said...

Great Review as always, this film's trailer left me perplexed simply because there are some talented actors here but the premise just seems so silly, sounds like I wasn't too far off in my estimation.

Brittani Burnham said...

This makes me sad that the script is so bad! I don't want to dislike films with JGL in them.

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