Who do you call when you need something delivered halfway across the city in a short period of time? If you are in New York City, you call one of the 1500 bike messengers that traverse the streets to get your package where it needs to go. These messengers ride hard and fast as they navigate the wild urban jungle, narrowly escaping serious injury and/or death as they swerve in an out of the gridlocked traffic and swarms of pedestrians. And it is this crazy subculture that has brought director David Koepp back to the director’s chair for the first time in four years, with the thriller Premium Rush.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Wilee, the best bike messenger on the streets. He rides a solid steel frame bicycle, with no gears and no brakes that make him seem a little crazier than his other messenger counterparts. Seeking a little extra cash Wilee takes one last, seemingly normal run. A nice little bike ride through the city of New York would not make for a thrilling movie though and this package is far more than it seems on the surface. As such the next 90 minutes put Wilee in for the ride of his life.
Koepp smartly trickles out the pieces to puzzle together the narrative. At the outset the film places the viewer in the same boar as Wilee. We don’t know what the package is and we do not know why someone is chasing him. As each piece is revealed the narrative spins backwards uncovering just enough to keep us intrigued all the way up to the end, although that does fall a touch flat.
In between each of these narrative reveals are high impact chase sequences. The camera work here is quite stellar and really relays the energy involved in bike riding. Most importantly, the chases are thrilling, with Wilee narrowly escaping death on numerous occasions. In a nice twist, instead of rushing non-stop through these sequences, Koepp stops the action when Wilee needs to pick a new path and highlights the potential outcome for each different path, often with gruesome results. These little breaks in the fast pace help to highlight the danger Wilee is actually in and makes it that much more engrossing.
For being, in essence, a simple chase film, Premium Rush works quite well and is better than it has any right to be, however, it just is not that memorable and lacks any actual substance. It is the entertainment equivalent of a candy bar. It hits the spot but it will not stick with you tomorrow. Thankfully there is a place for a good candy bar every once in a while.
3 / 5