I was torn when it came to making the final decision on what to name this post. Clearly I chose what I chose because it was the point I wanted to get across but my other option was “Premium Rush: Joseph Gordon Levitt Can Pretty Much Do Anything.” When I first saw previews for Premium Rush, I almost wanted to laugh at them. I couldn’t understand why Joseph Gordon-Levitt would do a movie that look like a generic, bad action movie. The only reason I ended up going to see this film was because of an article in the Chicago Tribune written by Michael Phillips (the movie reviewer not the swimmer) in which he gave the film three and a half stars. Trusting Phillips opinion, I went and saw the film and learned that action films really can deserve three and a half stars.
Technically, this film follows New York City bike messenger Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as its main character but writers David Koepp and John Kamps make it very obvious early on in the film that Wilee is not the only focus. It only takes about five minutes for the audience to be caught in a web of characters. Wilee works for a company called Security Currier, run by the hilarious Raj (Aasif Mandvi). Also working there is Wilee’s ex-girlfriend, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), and his arch rival Manny (Wole Parks), who has attempted to seal Wilee’s job and Vanessa. When Nima (Jamie Chung), Vanessa’s roommate and Wilee’s old law school classmate, calls to have a package deliver, the plot escalates. The films villain Bob Monday (Michael Shannon), who reminded me of a violent cartoon villain, comes to life. Punctuating many of his comments with a crazy, high-pitched giggle, Monday tears through the film with a quick temper and a tendency for violence. The package in question contains a single piece of paper worth quite a bit of money. A police officer in massive debt, Monday goes to extreme lengths to take the package from Wilee while Wilee goes to extreme lengths to protect it while staying alive.
Though the plot of the film seems somewhat simple, director/writer David Koepp uses his wide array of amusing characters to complicate things. As he attempts to escape Monday, Wilee pisses off a bike cop who spends all his time on screen chasing him. At one point, Manny has taken the package from Wilee so Wilee chases him down to get it back. While chasing Manny, Wilee is also being chased by the bike cop while trying to avoid Officer Monday. Scenes became funny and intense at the same time as the characters fly through the dangerous streets of New York City, Wilee leading his pursuers through obstacles and traps he can overcome but they can’t. As my friend who I saw the film with pointed out, the movie had a roadrunner and coyote feel to it. The coyotes, Detective Monday and the bike cop, relentlessly attempt to capture the roadrunner, ironically named Wilee, even though every attempt ends in pain for the coyotes. The humor and intensity Koepp managed to cultivate in almost every scene made this film pure fun to watch.
One other aspect of the film that was very interesting was the secret world that the film let the audience see. I do not know quite how accurately the film portrayed the underground world of the New York City bike messengers but according to an interview with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who trained as a bike messenger for four months, the actors said that the portrayal was accurate. While there are a number of different currier services that all compete for business, the bike messengers and their bosses are look out for one another. They all hang out at the same bars, they all help each other get around and most of all, as is shown by the climax of the film, they help one another when they get in trouble. It was a fascinating aspect of New York City to be allowed to see.
Still, a full twenty-four hours after seeing the film, I’m somewhat in shock of how much I enjoyed it. I’m not going to bore those of you who have read a lot of my posts by giving you my full philosophy on expectations but I think they had a lot to do with my reaction to this film. I expected to be upset with the film and when it came down to it, I thought this was a very well done film. Even the way the film was presented was amusing, using a series of flashbacks and flash forwards. It was like watching a puzzle come together; pieces continued to fall into place until suddenly the entire plot fit together perfectly. As far as entertainment value goes, I give this film a 5 out of 5. Looking at it being a good film, looking at shots, acting, directing and plot, I give this film a 3 out of 5 giving an overall 8 out of 10. I strongly recommend seeing this one in theaters keeping in mind that yes, it is true. An action film really can deserve three and a half stars.