Review: "Premium Rush"

I confess, dear readers, that I am having quite a difficult time figuring out what to write about Premium Rush. I usually spend a couple of days after I see a movie planning out my thoughts, letting everything gestate, coming up with an opening paragraph/personal anecdote to tie it altogether and then bust that sucker out. Well I’ve tried this time around and have put off writing my review far too long as a result. And I just don’t have it. Premium Rush is a movie that involves absolutely no personal connection with the audience on any level and that is both the best and worst thing about it.

Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a bit of a wild man and a free spirit, a guy who can’t imagine being locked away inside concrete walls. Despite having gone to law school, Wilee makes his living as a bike messenger in New York City and has earned a reputation for himself as the fastest rider and the guy who takes the most chances to get his packages delivered. Things get serious for Wilee, however, when he takes a package from Nima (Jamie Chung), an old friend whose envelope holds far more importance than Wilee could know. He is soon accosted by Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon) who demands he hand over the package, leading to a chase through the city as Wilee attempts to make his delivery. But the plot thickens when Wilee discovers that Monday isn’t just a random nut job, but instead a corrupt cop on a desperate mission.
Show me the person who saw that trailer for Premium Rush when it started making the rounds last year and was excited for the movie and I’ll show you a liar. This movie looked downright terrible and every time I saw it I got a little more confused as to why Joseph Gordon-Levitt allowed himself to be sucked into it. Surely this was a movie that had been sitting on a shelf for years, waiting for the day when the studio could capitalize on Gordon-Levitt’s eventual star power. Regardless of your opinion of the movie, you have to admit this was a strange career choice for Gordon-Levitt. In the midst of a two year span in which he will play prominent roles in Inception, 50/50, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, and Lincoln, there will forever be a space left for Premium Rush, or as it will surely come to be known as, “That Bike Movie.” This is odd to say the least, especially coming from an actor who has displayed incredible decision making abilities (I think we can all forgive him for G.I. Joe, right?). As such, I was thoroughly confused by this film as its release date approached and even more confused once the positive reviews started pouring in.

Once I finally got into the theater and the film began to roll, I went through three stages of experience with Premium Rush.

1.) I started out skeptically, looking at the film through what I’m sure were furrowed brows, trying to ascertain what in the name of Angels in the Outfield was going on. “How did this script ever get the green light?” is a question that came to mind more than once in the opening 15 minutes.
2.) After this initial bout of “I don’t believe this is good”, I came around to what director David Koepp was trying to do and half-enjoyed myself. Clearly no one involved with this production was taking himself too seriously and as a result, there’s a carefree atmosphere that inhabits the middle portion of the film. It is just this side of a B movie and there’s a lot of fun to be had when you embrace that mindset.
3.) After the B movie euphoria wore off, I became keenly aware that I was watching a movie about a group of people who ride bikes for a living and speak about it as if they had a societal value akin to doctors and then I wanted it all to be over.

There’s definitely some fun to be had with Premium Rush and it certainly isn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be. Gordon-Levitt is a favorite of mine and as such, I enjoyed his work here even if it was perhaps the most inconsequential thing he’s ever been a part of. Shannon, though, is without question the best part of the movie. His take on the cliché tough guy crooked cop is kind of genius and he seems to be having a good time. You know he’s in on the joke and that makes the seriousness with which he treats Detective Monday thoroughly enjoyable. Beyond the presence of these two stars, however, there’s really nothing about Premium Rush that makes it special or, much more disappointing to me, even rewatchable. The best niche this movie could have carved out for itself would have been in the guilty pleasure category but it never manages to scrape together enough enjoyability to allow it to inhabit such territory.