Premium Rush overcomes poor trailers

WILEE, PLAYED by Jason Gordon-Levitt, stares at the mysterious envelope his bicycle courier group is carrying. Taking the job may have been a mistake for the couriers, as they are being hunted by crooked cop Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon).

I’d just like to start off by saying I hope everyone had a great summer, and welcome back! Welcome back to RPI, classes, friends, and Poly movie reviews! This summer I was fortunate enough to see a lot of movies, both in and out of theaters. Hard hitters like The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises were at the top of my list, while movies that weren’t on my radar, such as Ted, surprised me with how fun they were. I also spent a lot of time immersing myself in many older, classic films, going through Hitchcock’s back catalog as well as those of legendary actors like Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, and Henry Fonda. However, this first review isn’t going to cover any of those. This week’s review is of a movie I fondly refer to as “Bike Movie,” coined by my good friends Tom and Joseph who graduated before we were able to watch this together (Hi guys!). So, without further ado, I welcome you all to the Premium Rush review.

“Bike Movie,” as it will henceforth be called, tells the story of a group of bicycle couriers in New York City who bite off a bit more than they can chew when they decide to carry an envelope whose contents are extremely sensitive. The conflict arises in the form of a crooked cop, who attempts to drive down the bike couriers at every turn in his efforts to acquire the envelope. Based on the previews and trailers, this movie seemed to have an entirely silly premise centered on a bunch of people riding bikes and doing parkour-esque stunts in their attempts to escape “something.” However, a few minutes with the movie makes you to realize that the trailers barely did it any justice; this is a film with surprising depth considering how it was advertised.

I’m a huge Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan, and his role as main character Wilee is what initially drew me to the film despite its somewhat random subject material. I loved him opposite Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You, I loved him in Brick and in (500) Days of Summer. I’ve loved him in all of his films; we do not refer to him as a certain avian-themed sidekick, however. We just don’t. In “Bike Movie,” Gordon-Levitt provides a fine, dependable performance. Nothing stunning, but he does give more credence to the notion that he is indeed the most likable actor in indie filmmaking. He provides Wilee with enough depth to make him relatively compelling, and manages to turn bike riding into some sort of super power.

However, in my opinion, it was actor Michael Shannon who stole the show. Shannon portrays antagonist Bobby Monday, a corrupt NYPD detective whose goal is to acquire the envelope Wilee is carrying for his own personal gain. While his character’s motivations and general plotline are pretty standard and nothing special, Shannon brings a manic intensity to his role. His cop is someone on the edge, whose arrogance and stupidity have landed him in some sticky situations. I’ve seen Shannon in another role this past summer: that of a federal agent on the HBO show Boardwalk Empire. His performance on that show stuck with me and made me remember another role that I thought he had done well: that of a troubled neighbor in Revolutionary Road. Turns out, he had been nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in Revolutionary Road; with all this knowledge I was thus not quite so surprised to see him going the extra mile in this indie film about cycling. Shannon is currently filming the Superman reboot, Man of Steel, and is portraying General Zod. After seeing how well he plays a cut-and-dry villain, I’m a bit more excited for that film. Meanwhile, the supporting cast did fine, given their material, but there were no real standouts.

Speaking of their material, screenwriter/director David Koepp and John Kamps wrote a solid story here. The writing isn’t going to win any awards, and there are some particularly cringe-worthy dialogue choices, but it gives the film and characters far more weight and depth than the terrible ad campaign for it would make you believe.

Meanwhile, Koepp’s direction is solid. What particularly grabbed me were the cuts used to show how far Wilee had traveled; a CGI animated map of New York would appear and a bright yellow line would trace out his path and then there would be a nicely edited shot of the location he had arrived at. Other cool and amusing sections include Wilee’s time-slowed path planning when arriving at a particularly congested bit of road. It was sort of like the fight-planning used by Guy Ritchie in the new Sherlock Holmes films, but for bike riding. Other scenes also employed slowdowns to nice effect and the cinematography in general helped convey a visceral sense of speed throughout the movie.

Admittedly, Premium Rush is not the greatest movie I’ve ever seen. What it is, however, is a surprisingly fun movie that was betrayed by a string of subpar ads and trailers. Premium Rush didn’t make much this weekend, and I doubt it’ll ever even break even, but I’m glad I went out and paid for it anyways. So if you’re interested in bike riding or Gordon-Levitt or even Shannon, I’d say this is definitely worth a look. If not, then I suppose there could be worse things to pass on. Like Gordon-Levitt and Rian Johnson’s upcoming movie, Looper. Come on, Gordon-Levitt, the director of Brick, and Bruce Willis? All mixed together in an intriguing, action-y time travel plot? You know I’ll at least be there.