Premium Rush (2012) Film Review, a movie directed by David Koepp and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jamie Chung, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Aasif Mandvi, Nick Damici, Aaron Tveit, Lauren Ashley Carter, Danielle McKee, Jennifer Butler, Ashley Austin Morris, Naeem Uzimann, Aija Terauda, and Peter Conboy.
Premium Rush is an extremely ambitious movie. Not so much because of what it hopes to achieve cinematically, but because when your protagonist rides a bicycle, there is an onus not only to make the audience care about bikers, but to sympathize with them as well. As one of the most hated subcultures on the planet (I see you Lance Armstrong) this is not an easy task. Aside from this challenge, Premium Rush is an enjoyable chase film, with plenty of excitement. The acting, while not exceptional, is more than enough to serve its purpose and the stunts are truly engaging. While it isn’t perfect, the movie does well what it sets out to do well – for the most part.
One thing that immediately stands out in Premium Rush is the narrative structure. Initially it comes off as a bit confusing, but quickly corrects itself, and I would definitely consider it an effective way to tell what would otherwise have been kind of a boring story. It’s not that the plot is overly conventional, it’s just that the stakes are so low. This is highlighted when we are treated to a “tear-jerking” scene of a young Chinese boy being denied entrance to a ferry (Big Trouble in Little China…literally. It looks like a set from a bad 80’s movie) that presumably is going to bring him to America to be with his mother. His cherubic face, the naïve disappointment in his eyes – for lack of a better word, “vom.” Being heavy handed to jack up a weak plot is borderline shameful. Why not rely on imagination? Its a powerful instrument. That being said, the rest of the movie is loose enough to be fun, and at some points, the frantic chase scenes and shifting around of the package even reminded me of Enemy of the State.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a good honest performance in the film. Though quoted as not doing all of his own stunts, he was actually out there riding the bike and in shape to do it. Kudos. The other characters don’t get much space off their bikes so it’s tough to be critical of them – save for one person. The police officer (who weirdly looks like Ray Liotta and Tim Olyphant‘s hybrid cartoon child) who is after Gordon-Levitt is so campy and over the top that I was literally waiting for an anvil to fall on his head. Nearly every time he was on camera the whole tone of the movie shifted from slick bike chase to Looney Toons. If anyone in Hollywood is reading this, never cast this guy again unless you are doing a Blues Clues reboot.
Something I thought was commendable, especially when a film is based on a specific subculture, was how they referenced fixed gears vs gears vs no brakes. These tiny details I’m sure will appeal to bikers, and no doubt alienate others, who will probably only see Premium Rush as a thrill ride movie. Admittedly, I am not super in tune with the cycling culture but I know enough about it to know that it was a smart move not to have Gordon-Levitt racing Fonzi on a Huffy (or Mongoose).
Something I thought was very un-commendable in Premium Rush was that the movie started and end with “Baba O’Reilly” by The Who. As if CSI hadn’t already smeared their legacy enough – I am imploring all of Hollywood to STOP. Literally zillions of songs have been released since 1971. Just pick a different song, that’s all I ask. Honestly, I don’t care how relevant it is to your story. I don’t care if you are filming a documentary about The Who. Just Stop.
Aside from this, which was nearly impossible to avoid anyways, I would definitely recommend this movie. Fun from start to finish, awesome bike tricks, and legitimately exciting. Get off your bike already and go see the damn movie!