Review of Premium Rush - Joseph Gordon-Levitt remains a go-to action man but film crashes badly
Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to be one of the more eclectic actors around moving from the sweet love story (500) Days of Summer to indie comedies like Hesher and blockbuster epics Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and perhaps, a Dark Knight Rises spinoff. Arguably, there’s little he can’t do well. More importantly, Gordon-Levitt has become one the few actors who generates enthusiasm with each new role. He really is someone to watch.
Gordon-Levitt settles nicely into the lead role in the action movie Premium Rush as the carefree Wilee, a law school grad who chooses working as a bike messenger over taking the bar exam and working in a law firm. Wilee loves the rush of speeding through the Manhattan streets as a courier and brags about his classic bike and the fact he doesn’t have brakes. Being a bike messenger is all fun and adrenaline until a delivery from the Upper Westside to Chinatown turns out to be a fight for his life due the value of his mysterious package.
The storytelling from writer/director David Koepp and co-writer John Kamps starts out as a fun B-movie with Wilee outracing crooked cop Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon) through the Manhattan streets.
Unfortunately, despite twisty POV camerawork from Mitchell Amundsen and a frantic pace that never stops, Premium Rush steadily loses dramatic momentum and sinks into extreme silliness via awful dialogue, overacting and a paper-thin plot.
Gordon-Levitt looks good as Wilee with a shaven head and wiry frame. He’s believable as the two-wheeled speed racer.
Unfortunately, Premium Rush offers Gordon-Levitt little opportunity to get off his bike and deliver a quality performance.
Compared to his best work in indie dramas like Brick and Mysterious Skin and the little-known Uncertainty, or even The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush is more aerobic workout than dramatic performance for Gordon-Levitt.
Michael Shannon makes great use of his buggy eyes and cartoonish facial expressions as the bad cop who will stop at nothing to get his hands on Wilee’s valuable package. Shannon understands the silliness at the heart of Premium Rush and overacts accordingly.
The girls of Premium Rush, Dania Ramirez as Wilee’s former girlfriend Vanessa, and Jamie Chung as Vanessa’s roommate Nima, who requests Wiley to deliver the mysterious package, are pretty but forgettable.
Wolé Parks also fades into the Manhattan skyline as Wilee’s courier competitor Manny. Then again, muck like Gordon-Levitt, the movie doesn’t offer him much to do other than ride, ride and ride.
Koepp is unashamedly pulpy in his choices having fun with hairpin turns and frequent crashes but one expects a little more story from the screenwriter of Mission: Impossible, Spider-Man and War of the Worlds.
At its best moments, Koepp pays homage to Steven Spielberg’s Duel as Wilee races a car driven by Shannon’s bad cop with a dash of B-movie silliness straight out of an Abel Ferrara movie.
Premium Rush flirts with the chance of becoming a B-movie classic but Koepp fails to strike the right balance of sinister and silly, so as a result, the movie turns out to be a little too silly.
Still, Gordon-Levitt remains a go-to guy in my book, even if his likable personality fails to save Premium Rush.
Premium Rush Movie Details:
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Cast: Jospeh Gordon-Levitt, Dania Ramirez, Wolé Park, Jamie Chung and Michael Shannon
Director: David Koepp
Screenwriter: David Koepp and John Kamps
Cinematographer: Mitchell Amundsen
Editor: Jill Savitt and Derek Ambrosi
Running Time: 91 minutes
Rating: Rated PG-13
Release Date: August 24, 2012