Premium Rush (David Koepp, 2012)
This 90-minute movie is a sharp, muscular little action-packed ride that thrills the viewer as much as biking through the streets of New York thrills its main character. It is also quite dumb in many ways, particularly in its choice of antagonist. Michael Shannon, as Bobby Monday, proves yet again that there is no movie that he can’t almost ruin with his over-the-top bad acting.
Wilee, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is a law school graduate unwilling – yet – to don a suit, who bobs and weaves his way through dense traffic as a bike messenger, a profession which rewards grit and speed. Wilee is something of an icon, having won the “Alley Cat” competition – where bike messengers triumph by reaching a destination first – three years in a row. Life is good, except that his girlfriend, Vanessa – also a bike messenger – played by Dania Ramirez, wants him to settle down, and his rival on the messenger squad, Manny (Wolé Parks), sees an opportunity to step in and seduce Vanessa away.
And then one day, Vanessa’s roommate, Nima, a Chinese law student, calls in a messenger request for a special delivery of a mysterious ticket, which compulsive gambler Bobby Monday also wants, and the chase is on! If you have ever thought that a car should have no problem catching a bicyclist. then watch this movie to have your ideas changed. While the convoluted nature of the plot (which involves Chinese gangsters, gamblers and smugglers, and corrupt cops) may strain credibility, the action scenes are worth the price of admission (or purchase, or rental, or streaming, or . . . however you watch your movies these days). The actors on bikes – from Gordon-Levitt to Ramirez to Parks – are all immensely appealing and very fit, and watching them go all out with taut sinew and muscles bulging brings back whatever street cred the plot has lost.
But Michael Shannon . . . I do not like this actor! He has been terrible in every film in which I have seen him, and his presence in Take Shelter, for which I have seen the preview many times, is the sole reason why I will never watch that film. I had never seen him before Revolutionary Road, but he stuck out right away as a black hole of talentless suck from the moment his scenes began. Please, someone do us all a favor and stop casting him. I don’t care what Manohla Dargis thinks (as much as I normally like her writing), he is no Christopher Walken. That man – as crazy as he can play – knows how to work a nuance.
So I recommend the movie for a good time, as long as you are willing to overlook some significant flaws. As a former New Yorker, I loved seeing all of the locations shot from a bike’s perspective. If you get into the right mood, you’ll emerge from the experience with your adrenaline pumped. I suggest a good workout right afterwards . . .