Directed by: David Koepp
Written by: David Koepp, John Kamps
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Jamie Chung, Dania Ramirez
PG-13 | 91 Minutes
Release Date: August 24, 2012
“I like to ride. Fixed gear. No brakes. Can’t stop. Don’t want to, either.”
Directed by David Koepp (Ghost Town) and written by Koepp and John Kamps (Zathura: A Space Adventure), Premium Rush stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Wilee, a New York City bike messenger who picks up a mysterious envelope from Columbia University.
Detective Robert Monday (Michael Shannon) is a dirty copy with serious impulse control issues, who’s desperate to get his hands on the envelope. Chasing Wilee and his fellow bike couriers Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) and Manny (Wolé Parks) through the streets of New York, Monday must get the envelope before it reaches its intended destination.
“Breaks are death!” To his fellow bicycle enthusiasts, Wilee comes off as a bit of a radical – a former stunt performer on a suicide mission. His fixed-gear bike cannot coast, because the pedals are always moving. Keopp’s film operates similarly, running at one-speed with no brakes until its conclusion.
Don’t expect any complex, Inception-style plot contrivances or character monologues rich in symbolism and emotional depth with Premium Rush -there’s no time for that. It’s a streamlined chase movie that thrives on speed and the exhilaration of swerving through congested streets filled with taxi cabs and pedestrians.
Gordon-Levitt delivers a great performance, but it’s Shannon who steals the show as Bobby Monday. Monday has a nasty pathological gambling disorder and a short fuse, and a tendency to lie his way out of every situation. When asked to identify himself, Monday often offers up the name Forrest J Ackerman. To casual filmgoers it will sound like an cleverly concocted alias, but to those in the know, they’ll recognize the name as the late, great editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland.
It’s little touches like referencing Uncle Forry that expose Premium Rush for the B movie it is, a barebones chase film buried under A+ actors and top-notch camera work by Mitchell Amundsen, who has most recently worked on Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and The Bourne Legacy.
David Keopp’s bike messenger movie is a much better film than it should be. Compared to this summer’s other chase films like Total Recall and The Bourne Legacy, Premium Rush is by far the most exhilarating of the bunch. It’s like Top Gun and Point Break mixed with Kevin Bacon’s 1986 flop Quicksilver.
Michael Shannon is one of the greatest American actors working today. From Revolutionary Road to his work on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and last year’s fantastic Take Shelter, Shannon continues to garner recognition for his ability to elevate any project he participates in, and Premium Rush is the perfect example of that.
Played by anyone else, Det. Bobby Monday could have came off as a one-note villain, but with the help of Shannon’s subtle, layered madness, Monday is a desperate man at the end of his rope – a man whose lies have finally caught up with him, and it’s fascinating to watch him descend into the dark while Joseph Gordon-Levitt remains the consumate good guy, never giving up – never slowing down.
Go see Premium Rush. It’s the perfect end-of-summer thrill ride. [Insert pun about rushing to your local theater.]