Premium Rush delivers enough high octane thrills to distract you from a formulaic storyline.

Dodging speeding cars, crazed cabbies, open doors, and eight million cranky pedestrians is all in a day’s work for Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the best of New York’s agile and aggressive bicycle messengers. It takes a special breed to ride the fixie – super lightweight, single-gear bikes with no brakes and riders who are equal part skilled cyclists and suicidal nutcases who risk becoming a smear on the pavement every time they head into traffic. But a guy who’s used to putting his life on the line is about to get more than even he is used to when a routine delivery turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan. When Wilee picks up his last envelope of the day on a premium rush run, he discovers this package is different. This time, someone is actually trying to kill him. — (C) Sony

The fixie sums up the film perfectly.

“Fixed gear, steel frame, no brakes”

Premium Rush delivers what it promises: high-octane action in the streets of Manhattan through a bare bones bicycle. Wilee navigates the treacherous landscape of pedestrian and automobile traffic to deliver messages for a mere 80 bucks a day.

But the adrenaline junkie isn’t there for the money. Soon enough he actually gets himself in trouble. This time imminent death is courting him not the other way around. Apart from the normal hazards that comes with the job, a crazed corrupt cop (and a persistent one on two wheels) is on his trail.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon square off in a chase-the-bicycle game. They’re given character sketches but both manage to elevate the material. JGL is likeable and Shannon is an amusing menace. The rest of the cast do well with what they’re given.

Kudos to the film for having a diverse cast who look the part, rather than throwing in another pretty white stick and a pasty beef cake.

But essentially, that’s all there is to it. Premium Rush is just a bicycle chase. There’s more obstacles thrown in as it makes its predictable turns but they’re all generic – a relationship stuck in second gear, the clueless guy, a douchebag rival, and a sob story. In hindsight, it’s bicycle messengers helping a Chinese mob to smuggle in an immigrant.

But then again, that’s what Premium Rush aims to do  – not the smuggling part – provide two hours of street action from the perspective of the urban rider who has nothing but his quick reflex and wits and leg muscles to survive. It made me think of our family’s hunk of a mountain bike to take for a spin.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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