Review: PREMIUM RUSH (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Review: PREMIUM RUSH (2012)


A major motion picture arrived with little fanfare and lack of marketing push (other than that "Ride Like Hell" big tagline), I wasn't expecting much on PREMIUM RUSH since the movie gets bumped from its original January release into late August (also known as a "dumping month" for movie with bad/little buzz). Well, to my surprise, it turns out that PREMIUM RUSH isn't a pile of crap after all. Expect the unexpected, because PREMIUM RUSH is an exhilarating, albeit bumpy ride of an action thriller with B-movie energy.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Wilee (as in Wile E. Coyote, get it?), a street-smart law-school dropout who trades his would-be great career to make a living as a New York bike messenger instead. Even though the pay isn't that much but Wilee enjoys his job very much because he really likes adrenaline rush. His everyday job consists of delivering package in time while dodging heavy traffic on his brake-less bike (also known as "fixie") because he doesn't believe in stopping. At the same time, he tries to work out his relationship with fellow messenger, on-and-off girlfriend Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) when he gets called away to pick up a high-priority envelope ("premium rush", that is in the bike-messenger slang) from Vanessa's roommate/Wilee's former college acquaintance, Nima (Jamie Chung) and deliver it to an address in Chinatown within 90 minutes. Such rush-hour assignment is a piece of cake for Wilee but it's not until he bumps into Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), a crooked NYPD cop disguised as a college dean. Monday wants that particular envelope very badly, but being a highly-responsible employee, WIlee refuses to give it to anyone other than fulfill the delivery at all cost. And so the chase begins between Wilee and Monday who stops at nothing to get the envelope. As the movie goes on, we learn that the contents of the letter is proved crucial to Monday because it could earn him the money he needs to pay off a gambling debt from a bunch of Chinese gangsters.

Clocking at a compact 90 minutes, the movie is fast and fun enough to keep you entertained. Thanks to a savvy script by David Koepp and John Kamps, they surely know how to have fun jumbled up the otherwise straightforward narrative into non-linear fashion -- something like Quentin Tarantino loves to do in his own movie. Watching the way how the story unfolds back and forth (with frequent aid of flashbacks) to help us understand what makes the envelope so important at the first place. The plot does tends to get a little bumpy when Koepp and Kamps attempt to stretch their story further, but that's minor quibble anyway.

Most importantly, Koepp, who also served as the movie's director, knows how to make an action-thriller spectacle. The action alone is taut and exciting enough to keep you on the edge of the seat, thanks to bravura camerawork by Mitchell Amundsen. Watching how Amundsen flawlessly keeping up the pace of the never-idle bikes as it zigzags through the heavy traffic left and right is simply breathless it's like almost as if you're in the fast ride yourself. Kudos also goes to Koepp for opting real stunts and only resulted for special-effects work sparingly. Not only that, Koepp also knows how to play around with the special effects with fascinating results. Scenes of how the RUN LOLA RUN-like "what if" possible case-scenario where Wilee has to do three quick "mind-mapping" decision on which route to take -- is simply fun to watch for.

Adding the fun to the movie is its all-around energetic cast here. Fresh off from a scene-stealing performance as John Blake in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is rock-solid as the street-smart Wilee. His remarkable biking skills (in which he also did his own stunts) is as plausible as he gets. Likewise, his acting performance shows a lot of playful enthusiasm and it's hard not to get hooked by his charm. As the crooked NYPD cop, Monday, Michael Shannon delivers a wickedly over-the-top performance here that almost feels like a cartoonish villain. While his kind of acting might be laughable for some, there's no deny he makes an idealistic B-movie bad guy. The rest of the supporting actors -- Dania Ramirez, Jamie Chung and Wole Parks, who plays Wilee's bike-messenger rival, Manny -- are equally good as well.

While far from perfect, PREMIUM RUSH remains an unlikely gem of a chase movie. I mean, who could have thought that an action thriller involving bicycle can be this fun?

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