Review: “Premium Rush” is the “French Connection” of bicycle movies

August 24th, 2012 at 12:01 am by under Entertainment

Not that its going to win five Oscars including Best Picture like the 1971 Gene Hackman thriller “The French Connection”… but the chase sequences on bikes have raised the bar for bicycle movies.

I honestly didn’t go into this movie with high expectations because the bike messenger genre was ruined for me by a little Kevin Bacon movie called “Quicksilver” (1986).

“Premium Rush” poster courtesy Columbia Pictures

(My spoiler-free review)

While “Premium Rush” won’t be remembered for its cast of amazing dramatic actors  or amazing screenplay, it will be remembered for stunning visuals during some serious bike chases and extreme riding by Joseph Gordon-Levitt… and his stunt double.

Levitt’s character “Wilee” rides hard on a bike with no brakes and no gears… he’s always moving, both in his job and in his personal life it seems… a motif not lost on this viewer.  He’s a calculated risk taker as we see in some of the movie’s intriguing CGI explanations of his thoughts while riding through a busy New York City intersection crowded with pedestrians and cars.

The action is captivating and the chases were well thought out and executed.  “Premium Rush” has little bits of gambling, mobsters, underground crime circuit, police, crooked cops, action, comic relief, and romance all set in the world of bike messengers.

The “package” given a premium rush is interesting – if you’re paying attention – something that might be hard to do if you’re getting swept away zooming along with Wilee’s point-of-view camera plus snappy, intelligent camera changes going on around him from views inside the cabs, to traffic cams, to views from the people he’s dodging.  The different camera angles and editing raise the intensity and pull us in – and honestly almost wear you out as if you’ve just been dodging cars speeding through a major metropolitan landscape.  The main plot point (the importance of said package) could have used some extra explanation since the criminal systems involved are not familiar to average audiences… and there is some language barriers to jump over – if you missed the subtitles.

There are several moments where we go back in time to see how we arrived at the latest crux of the storyline.  The effects that guide us along this path are simple, explanatory and not over-the-top – often even using simple phone app-like technology to show us the routes for the riders.

There’s a decent soundtrack to go along with all of the bike riding and a really good bad guy played by Michael Shannon – who could be considered for an award nomination – if the award season ended right now – for his role as crazy Detective Bobby Monday.

Just when I thought this movie was going to go for the soft Hollywood ending, the movie gets a little darker and little grittier before it all ends with a final shot just before the credits that amazed the audience I was with.

You do have to suspend belief a little bit to truly enjoy this one – there is a lot of hardcore bike riding for miles through blocks of New York City – and our main characters seem to be extremely fit and unfazed by all of the strenuous and sometimes extreme cycling displayed in the movie… c’mon even Lance Armstrong got tired after miles of rigorous biking.


Overall, its a good little thriller, much better (and funnier) than I expected from a bike messenger movie… I give it 6.5 out of 10 … it feels fresh while at the same time feeling familiar.  The story may have some holes in it, but its the action and the tension between Gordon-Levitt and Shannon that keep this movie going.  While it might not be the most interesting movie I’ve seen in 2012, it certainly stands alone for being different and having some sweet bicycle chases.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “Premium Rush” photo courtesy Columbia Pictures

“Premium Rush”

(2012) (rated: PG-13 for some violence, intense action sequences and language)
(1 hr, 31 min)

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Anthony Chisholm, Wolé Parks, Aasif Mandvi, Jamie Chung, Christopher Place, Sean Kennedy

Director: David Koepp ["Ghost Town" (2008), "Secret Window" (2004), "Stir of Echoes" (1999)]

Genre: Action/Thriller

The Plot:

So what did you think?  Please post a comment!

“Premium Rush” poster and photo courtesy Columbia Pictures

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