- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Columbia Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
here is virtually nothing original about the premise of "Premium Rush," but its execution is immensely entertaining, not to mention shocking when you consider that it was co-written and directed by David Koepp, a man better known for adapting mainstream fare like "Jurassic Park," "War of the Worlds" and "Angels & Demons" than he is for looser material like this. Koepp's done small movies, sure, but nothing quite as effects-laden and gonzo as what he does here. Indeed, had they put Joe Carnahan's name on this movie instead of his, no one would have batted an eye. Props to Koepp for getting out of his comfort zone, though he still owes us a round of drinks for "Snake Eyes."
The movie is broken into three individual stories, which intersect from time to time. Story A involves Wiley (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a law school dropout-turned bicycle messenger. He receives a high-paying run at the end of his shift (30 whole dollars!) to deliver a package to Chinatown, but from the moment he picks up the envelope, he is harassed by Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), a dirty cop who needs the contents of the envelope for his own purposes. Monday is Story B, as we discover why he is so hell-bent on retrieving that envelope. Story C belongs to Nima (Jamie Chung), the soon-to-be-former roommate of Wiley's girlfriend Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) and the one who requested the delivery in the first place.
Ten bucks says the first words uttered during the pitch session for this movie were "Run Lola Run," Tom Tykwer's great 1998 film about a girl who will literally stop at nothing to settle her boyfriend's debt. It's quite possible that "Go" (same characters, different stories) and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" (the onscreen clock) were in the discussion as well. Whether Joe Quirk's novel "The Ultimate Rush" was mentioned is up for debate – as well as a gag order, as Quirk has sued Columbia on the grounds of copyright infringement – but the fact remains that the story borrows from several other sources. Having said that, if you're going to steal, then steal from the best, and it's hard to argue with what Koepp and screenwriting partner John Kamps (allegedly) used as their source material here. They even borrowed the best bit from Seth Rogen's "The Green Hornet" (or maybe the second-best bit, because that split-screen sequence is pretty fantastic), where Wiley analyzes the potential outcomes of biking into oncoming traffic. The point is, there is nothing here that people haven't seen before.
And yet, Koepp manages to spin it in such a way that the lack of originality quickly becomes a nonfactor. The direction has energy and a willingness to go for broke that Koepp's screenplays generally lack, and it pays off in spades. His shots of the bicyclists in action seem to be done at real-time speed (most car scenes are shot at a third their normal speed), which is impressive considering the cuts they make through traffic. Joseph Gordon-Levitt shows why he's on the cusp of the A list, as he outshines everyone here, including Oscar nominee Shannon, though Shannon does have a memorable rant inside an ambulance that makes up for some shakier work elsewhere. The other three main characters do not leave much of an impression, though Aasif Mandvi provides some great comic relief as Wiley's dispatcher.
"Premium Rush" is the kind of movie that will be no one's favorite movie of all time, but will cause future channel surfers to stop in their tracks and watch the movie to its completion, a la "Major League." (For the record, we like "Major League," but if this is your favorite movie, you need to see more movies.) It's not unique, but it's fun and well crafted, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Get some popcorn and enjoy the show, because that is what this movie is: a show.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Considering its limited release and resulting poor box office, it's no surprise that there are only two bonus features on the Blu-ray for "Premium Rush." (Note to studios: Previews for other movies do not count as extras.) The first featurette focuses on the making of the movie, and the second one focuses on the bike riding sequences and includes on-set video of a very bloody Joseph Gordon-Levitt after he ran into the back of a cab and shattered its rear windshield. Don't let the box office dissuade you – this one's definitely worth checking out.