Written by David Koepp and John Camps
Directed by David Koepp
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon
Wilee: I like to ride. Fixed gear. No brakes. Can't stop. Don't want to, either.
It may not be premium on any level but there is still plenty of rush to be had with David Koepp’s latest, PREMIUM RUSH. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a spry and sweaty bike messenger named Wilee - like the coyote, seriously. As he barrels down the busy streets of Manhattan at speeds reaching upwards of 50 miles per hour, you cannot help but feel your pulse accelerate at comparable speeds. At any moment, he could be run off the road, be smashed by oncoming traffic or worst of all, not make it to his delivery destination on time (gasp). And with all those endorphins pumping throughout this 90-minute thriller, it is easy to ignore how ridiculous it truly is.
To be clear, I mean ridiculous in the most complimentary sense of the word. The premise of PREMIUM RUSH is entirely beside the point, which is really just to focus on the extreme biking. Wilee is a premium rush junkie of sorts. He doesn’t ride with brakes on his bike; in fact, he considers them to be killers. He picks up an ordinary delivery from an acquaintance and is about to begin making his way downtown when he is stopped by a menacing man, played by Michael Shannon. Shannon wants what Gordon-Levitt is delivering; Gordon-Levitt won’t let it go; the chase begins from there. Koepp throws in a few other distractions, like a love interest and a crooked cop subplot, to keep it lively, but nothing takes away too much from the central race toward the finish line that Gordon-Levitt is desperately trying to win. It is as simple as it could be but it is this very simplicity that allows it to be so intensely satisfying.
The trick that Koepp has figured out here is to just go all in. PREMIUM RUSH is an exhilarating bike messenger chase flick and was never meant to be taken seriously. It’s meant to have a little fun with and that is exactly what Koepp is doing here. From the constant Google map inspired progress reports on where our hero currently is, to the shifts in both perspective between characters and in time and place, Koepp is playing up anything he can to heighten the tension. Sealing this deal though is the often hysterical and almost at times surreal performances by Gordon-Levitt and Shannon. They appear as if they are delighting in every single contrived word that comes out of their mouthes and, as a result, we are eager to take part in that very same delight. To be truly enjoyed, you just need to give in and let PREMIUM RUSH just rush right over you, in all its ridiculous splendor.