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Premium Rush Is Late-Summer Fun Nonsense

Premium Rush
Directed by David Koepp
Written by Koepp and John Kamps
Sony, 2012

New York City and speed…it’s something that movies generally get wrong.  I guess most of the country doesn’t have a mental map of Manhattan in their heads, so it doesn’t really matter what filmmakers do to get people where they’re going.  In Cloverfield, there’s a scene where the characters traverse almost all of Manhattan in a few minutes by walking in the subways.  In this movie, the climactic scenes involve our main character racing another through Central Park and then having to get to the Chinatown area in 30 minutes.  Even with a super-fast bike and paying very little attention to traffic lights and traffic laws in general, that’s a haul that is next to impossible, but it’s truly impossible when there are major sidetracking obstacles.  It always brings up that movie dilemma for me…if you want to cut it close, don’t ever show us the time onscreen.  Our mental clock will feel something wrong, even if we’ve suspended our disbelief.

That said, Premium Rush is a pretty fun movie overall.  It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as bike messenger Wilee, who rides a fixie (bike with no brakes or gears) through Manhattan with tremendous disregard for anything other than speed.  He’s got a thing for hot bike messenger Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), but he’s a bit of a jerk and he’s not winning her affection at the moment, plus he’s got to compete with another hot dude named Manny (Wolé Parks).  Today, Wilee is getting a “premium rush” from his friend Nima (Jamie Chung), who is very secretive about why this package is so important.  He needs to get the envelope to a Chinatown restaurant by 7:00.  Luckily for him, it’s only 5:23 and he can go get a hot dog and enjoy life and not worry about Michael Shannon.

Oops, he does have to worry about Michael Shannon, who plays New York cop Bobby Monday, a man with a terrible gambling problem and is in debt with Chinese gangsters who run a high stakes Pai Gow game that he keeps losing at time and again.  Shannon is in full-on crazy mode in this movie, which is entertaining and appropriate considering that the movie has put our heads in a sea of nonsense in the first place.  Anyway, he gets word about the message, and knows its contents can help him pay off his debt, so he makes a general nuisance of himself and tries to stop Wilee from delivering the package.

Now, this package…I don’t know if the filmmakers are trying to keep this a secret or not…so I won’t tell you exactly what it is.  I will say that it doesn’t make sense, nor is explained fully, how this envelope can be used by any other person to get money.  They say this many times, that the contents are “as good as money” and “people would kill to have it” and so forth…but I’d love to know how any random person off the street is supposed to cash this thing in if they do get their hands on it.  I can see a scenario, I guess, but not in this case, not if you follow the movie’s plot.  It doesn’t really matter.

The movie is fun with the speed of the bikes and all the death-defying traffic scenarios.  There are two instances where Wilee has to “Sherlock Holmes” a bike route through a busy intersection, and the scenarios are hilarious.  Michael Shannon, in full-on, bug-eyed killer mode, is fun to watch as well.  The stretches of logic and common sense in this movie are almost too much to overcome, but it manages it.  Long-time writing/directing vet David Koepp (he wrote Mission: Impossible, Jurassic Park, and Spider-Man and wrote/directed Stir of Echoes and The Trigger Effect) knows how to keep things fast and entertaining.  It’s not a great movie by any means, but it’s something that is always watchable.

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