Directed by: David Koepp
Premise: Set in an afternoon in New York, a bike messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is given a mysterious package to deliver and is pursued by a corrupt New York police detective (Michael Shannon).
What Works: Premium Rush gets off to a good start, presenting itself as a breathless chase movie with some humor and wit. The picture is smartly shot with the camera often mounted on or adjacent to the bicycles and the chases capture the reckless joy of speed. Premium Rush has a mischievous and even anarchic fun about it and it is appropriately cinematic. There is a lot about the characters that is conveyed through action; the way Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character rides through the streets of New York tells us a lot about him and because Gordon-Levitt is such a likable on-screen presence he is able to make an impression and put the audience on his side with a minimum of characterization. Also well cast is Michael Shannon as the villain. Shannon is another actor who brings a lot of energy to his roles and he manages to be adequately threatening despite the fact that he does not actually do very much in the course of the film except chase the hero.
What Doesn’t: Premium Rush begins well but things fall apart quickly. The filmmakers set their picture up as an A-to-Z chase film, which means that the main focus belongs on the race and everything else is a distraction. But about a third of the way into the picture the filmmakers decide to try and flesh out the characters. Not only is this unnecessary but it is done in a way that is disruptive to the movie and Premium Rush starts going off the rails when it jumps around the timeline with flashbacks that provide exposition. The story does not need it; this film is on track to be a live-action Road Runner cartoon as it sets up a protagonist with a goal and an antagonist who attempts to stop him. There is no need to get into an elaborate background about the MacGuffin (the object that the protagonist and antagonist compete over) and Premium Rush is an example of too much plot getting in the way of the story. What is worse is that this background information is so dull. None of it adds much to the characters and it interrupts the chase, grinding the movie to a halt. Because of these road bumps in the pacing of the film, Premium Rush takes the viewer’s focus off the finish line and this exposes all of the implausible, incredulous, and downright impossible elements of the story. Chase films often employ coincidences or suffer from gaps in the plotting but movies like Speed and Run Lola Run are so breathlessly done that these problems never occur to the viewer while watching them (at least not on the first viewing). By putting the brakes on the chase to fit in meaningless exposition the filmmakers of Premium Rush force a spotlight on the flaws that viewers might otherwise forgive, such as the fact that bicyclists are apparently able to move from one end of New York City to another in a matter of minutes and not even be out of breath when they get there or that the villain is able to anticipate where the hero is going and constantly arrive at exactly the same time. This stupidity extends to the police officers of Premium Rush; foolish or absent minded cops are nothing new to the movies but the police officers in Premium Rush have to be some of the stupidest officers in a Hollywood film in recent years. When Premium Rush gets to its resolution, the stupidity and plot holes finally sink the film in a laughably bad finale.
Bottom Line: Premium Rush has two very good lead actors and might have been a fun chase movie but its stupidity catches up with it and the movie is sabotaged by its maker’s carelessness.
Episode: #406 (September 23, 2012)