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Premium Rush

A movie directed by David Koepp

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Pedal to The Metal

  • Aug 26, 2012
Those of us who’ve lived in the urban jungles of America have familiar with the folks who are called Bike messengers. Those who of us who drive during rush hour or during the regular office days see them as a hazard to the flow of safe traffic, and while I have to admit that there are indeed some messengers who truly push the limits and do not respect the law, I understand the need for such men. They say that if you don’t want any service that can prove dangerous, then make sure there are no customers who need such risky service. Well, bike messengers are here to stay and director/co-writer David Koepp brings his viewers for a peek as to how this world of bike messengers go about with “Premium Rush”.

                       Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "Premium Rush."

This isn’t exactly the kind of movie I usually would go see, but I allowed myself to get dragged by a friend since she is a fan of Gordon-Levitt (she thinks he's cute). Seems like I’ve been doing this a lot for her lately. Upon first look, the trailers reminded me of the Kevin Bacon flick “Quicksilver”, which I thought was not a bad movie but something that wasn’t a classic. Well, this time, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception) plays Wilee, a New York city bike messenger who uses solid steel bikes with no gears and brakes. His life is all about the rush and even when he has a college degree, Wilee prefers to ride. It also comes as no surprise that his girlfriend, Vanessa (Danila Ramirez) is also a bike rider, but unlike Wilee, Vanessa wants to get out of this line of work one day. Then for reasons unknown, a young woman named Nima (Jaime Chung) wants to have an envelope delivered across town and she specifically asked for Wilee to do the job. But things get a little weird and dangerous as someone appears to be obsessed with this envelope and would stop at nothing to get it from Wilee. To make matters worst, this man is also a New York city cop (Michael Shannon).

                 Joseph Gordon Levitt in "Premium Rush."

                 Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Dania Ramirez in "Premium Rush."

The film is your pretty standard set up for an action romp. There is nothing really special about the script as the film moves around some familiar devices and uses elements that we’ve all seen before. A bike rider with a heart often being looked down on, disliked and envied by some of his colleagues, has a girlfriend who begins to have doubts, a young woman caught in a bad way because of a crooked authority figure and then, the brotherhood between the folks who have the same line of work. The story is pretty standard, and you know exactly where it is headed; to compensate the screenplay adds some stylistic touches to the film’s structure. “Premium Rush” starts right in the middle of the action and then goes back almost in real time relying on flashbacks to develop its characters.

The plot is driven by its characters I suppose but they aren’t exactly the kind that is original nor complex. I mean, the crooked cop had its own familiar reasons for stooping to such things while the most sympathetic character of the bunch is Nima. There is an almost strong commentary about immigration here and how the real world works. The direction did not play on the card so much as it plays on the character of Wilee. The plot gets developed around this trip to deliver the envelope whose contents were kept under wraps until the middle of the movie. The film almost moves at real time, and the film is almost a stunt show at its core. However, while I understood why the screenplay resorted to flashbacks to develop its characters, there were times that the film struggled in keeping up its pace.

                         Wole Parks in "Premium Rush."

                         Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon in "Premium Rush."

                         Jamie Chung in "Premium Rush."

Let’s be honest here, a film like this can really succeed when action-adrenaline remains high, well, there were point that I thought it slowed down to a crawl especially when it goes back and forth on the flashbacks. You can just see that the film is all about escapist entertainment, and it was doing things to hide the weaknesses in its plot. Some plot points barely made sense (look at the timetable), and I had to question the behavior done by some of its supporting characters. I mean, there was no way in hell can the bike cop could be that gullible, and some devices were a little too convenient for my tastes. I also thought that the rivalry with a fellow bike rider served up some fun twists, but it wasn’t exactly necessary to the flow of the plot.

Despite some rough moments, the film does have some good moments of stunts and action scenes. I have to commend the direction that it managed to restrain itself and kept the stunts on levels that promote realism, it was nice to see that it did not approach the levels of outrageousness that I feared. However, while I appreciated the realism, I also thought that the stunts were nothing special, and you could have more fun watching the real bicycle stunts on ESPN. Koepp (Angels and Demons) adds some stylistic touches as the viewer is taken for some slow motion as Wilee tries to think of different route possibilities to keep himself from fatal injury. It was a nice touch that reminded me of the ‘tunnel vision’ touches in “Initial D” and the precognitive-logical ability of Robert Downey Jr. in “Sherlock Holmes”.

                        Dania Ramirez in "Premium Rush."

“Premium Rush” is an entertaining movie once you hit the stunt scenes and the film does have a decent amount of adrenaline going for it. The thing is, it was just way too predictable that as soon as the film hit its stride, you know where it is about to go. Thankfully, the cast led by Gordon-Levitt were capable in setting in on its screenplay. I have to admit that I wasn’t too keen with the over-the-top portrayal of the crooked cop, but hey, he has there to be hated by the audience anyway. The last time I saw a film successfully executed because of its flow of adrenaline was the action classic “Speed“. I guess that is just so much to hope for when the main character is a guy on a bicycle.

RENTAL [2 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "Premium Rush." Poster art for "Premium Rush."
Pedal to The Metal

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March 26, 2013
Question: How are you able to post pictures in the middle of a review like that, and stack them on each other?
March 27, 2013
oh it is easy. I usually get the photos at or if it is a current release I merely copy and paste from  I place the cursor where I want the photos placed. There is another way, and it involves hitting the button that looks like a picture frame but I only use that when I use my own photos...
September 02, 2012
Guess I'll be skipping this one.
September 03, 2012
this was just very predictable and the stunts while cool did not stand out.
August 27, 2012
This is an excellent review. By adding the photos from the film, it seems as if I'm getting this info right from the film critic's eye. I like the way it was presented and the work that went into this fine review. Mike Draper
August 29, 2012
Thank you for the encouraging comments, Mike.
More Premium Rush reviews
review by . March 25, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
Premium Rush won my heart so thoroughly with its opening monologue alone that it would have taken a galactic screwup for me to be completely put off it. Reviewers have made a lot over one small line in said monologue: "I like to ride. Fixed gear. No brakes. Can't stop. Don't want to, either." Its been called smarmy and ridiculous, but I doubt much of the bicycle messenger community shares that opinion. I worked that dangerous and punishing job myself on the Chicago circuit for several years, and …
review by . September 16, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****    One of the first images we see in David Koepp's "Premium Rush" is of its main character Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as his body is flying mid-air in slow motion towards the ground, where it appears that he's had quite the fall. Fast forward a little earlier in the day, and we're back at the beginning of a journey of which we've apparently seen the upper end of, well, the end. It begins with Wilee (like the coyote) delivering an ominous envelope (that he assumes …
review by . August 25, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Premium Rush is one hell of a ride – an action thriller, a chase spectacle, a mystery, and a tale of international intrigue all rolled into one gloriously adrenaline-hopped package. It was directed and co-written by David Koepp, who proves yet again that, no matter what genre he works in, his flair for outlandish material is his strong suit. To illustrate my point, consider Death Becomes Her, Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible, Stir of Echoes, …
review by . August 27, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
   "I live my life how I ride, no gears, no brakes," This is just one of the lines that come out of our protagonist's mouths.  But how could you possibly be rooting for any bike rider after living in the city for as long as anyone has. Bikers are  the bane of both city drivers and walkers, full of hipsters, weaving in and out of traffic, running red lights whenever they feel.  Bikers are the worst.  I'm sure you my biker reader are a perfectly …
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