Premium Rush is a speed-fueled chase movie with a twist – the action in this movie takes place by bike.
Premium Rush promises speedy and secure mail delivery across New York, but the race is on when corrupt cop Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon) discovers the value of Wilee’s next delivery. Wilee, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is the most obsessive and reckless of the cycle delivery crew, rejecting life in a suit to speed around New York without gears or brakes. Wilee is best placed, then, to take on this most dangerous of cycling missions.
This danger is made plain in the first few seconds of the movie as Wilee is thrown through the air in a high speed collision. From here the story rewinds and, while there’s a beginning, a middle and an end to this thriller, Premium Rush does not unfold in this conventional order.
Most of the film is spent racing around on the bikes, with conversation limited to handsfree phone calls and over the shoulder shouting. This is exciting but makes for a strange dynamic that takes some getting used to. As car confined Bobby pursues Wilee through congested New York, the two react to each other without interacting, leaving a scene that should be both hilarious and exhilarating feeling forced.
Once it gets going and the contents of the envelope are revealed, real jeopardy is introduced to the plot and Premium Rush steps up the pace and the thrills. Yes there are more than a few cliches, including the daft cop who’s always in the wrong place and the wrong time, but these are a source of comedy rather than irritation.
Premium Rush has some unusual style touches with mixed success. Video game style music as the movie opens is fun and reminiscent of 80s hit Paperboy, but while using app style maps to cut between scenes makes for an interesting visual take, it ultimately distracts from the action and intensity.
Another interesting choice enables us to see the thought processes of Wilee as he negotiates the potentially fatal obstacles on New York’s streets – buses, taxi doors and pedestrians. Of course, given the severity of cycle crashes, more than a couple of them would render Premium Rush ridiculous, so as Wilee considers his evasive actions we see the consequences of the wrong choices in numerous quick-fire collisions. Silly, but also a stroke of genius, providing shocks and laughs in equal measure.
While this isn’t the best we’ve seen of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50, The Dark Knight Rises) or Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, Revolutionary Road) the pair provide us with a likeable protagonist and an unsavoury villain that hold Premium Rush together.
Premium Rush is an exciting thriller and a refreshing alternative to the car-chase genre. Yes, it verges on silly at times and it’s peppered with cliches, but it delivers thrills and entertainment. Be prepared for it to speed by in a blur of spectacular stunts.
VERDICT: ✭ ✭ ✭ ✩ ✩ 3/5
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