When I was growing up there was a movie that I watched over and over again that made me love skateboarding for a summer. Watching Christian Slater and his band of outlandish teen friends do cool tricks while fighting the “man” was the best thing I could think to watch ad nauseum. Gleaming the Cube was a staple for that one summer and Premium Rush is this generation’s version. Promoting the lifestyle of fix geared bike riding and being against the standard plans of growing up, Joseph Gordon-Levitt gleams much like Slater did back in 1989; a Peter Pan story on two wheels. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (JGL) plays Wilee, a reckless New York City bike messenger. Wilee refuses to use brakes, and even goes as far as to say, “brakes are death.” This gives you an insight into how he views the world; spoiler alert: poorly. When Wilee is given a package by Nima (Jamie Chung) to deliver he is thrust into a world far more complicated than him. With the help of his ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) Wilee races against time to deliver the package but all the while being chased by a crooked cop named Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon).
The chase scenes were entertaining to watch and there are some rather unique “choose your own adventure” moments in the movie. However, those moments possessed some very weak CGI. I can overlook it because when those scenes took place they were fairly engaging anyway. You got to hear a lot of laughter and gasping during those scenes. Sometimes the reaction from the audience can make a scene much better than it was intended.
One of my major issues with this movie was pacing. The first 15 minutes sets up the package hand off to JGL, and later in the movie they replay the entire setup scene. If you come into the movie late you will get completely caught up with no problem, this is not a benefit. I was on time so I didn’t really need to have the story retold to me. The choice not to cut some of those scenes short speaks to poor editing. Another issue that was prevalent in the film was its poor dialogue. Everyone felt like they were reading from a very basic script outline. With such star power and acting chops from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon I was surprised things felt as flat as they did. Running gags and the unneeded placement of impromptu ramps was enough to make me groan out loud but with the lack of clever dialogue as well I was truly annoyed. Shannon’s performance was by far the most entertaining. He was a great character, he provided laughs and fairly bizarre moments that were needed in this otherwise flat 91 minutes. JGL was serviceable, but much like Shannon you had to wonder what they were even doing there. Dania Ramirez served as a nice grounding character for the reckless Wilee. I suspect we will be seeing a lot more of her in the upcoming years, and she has the onscreen appeal to sustain her career in Hollywood.
Premium Rush is a decent ride, never boring, but flat in places. It feels half hearted and I think that’s because this is a studio film. A film to garner some quick cash and maybe push up the sales of bikes for a couple of weeks. All in all its fairly forgettable and both Gordon-Levitt and Shannon will go on to big and frankly better things. In the end you can’t really expect much from a bike messenger movie that tries to take itself way too seriously while playing up a “choose your own adventure” scenario no less than 4 times.
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