Premium Rush | Movie review
Joseph Gordon-Levitt out-pedals a villainous Michael Shannon.
“One time or another, we all get hit,” says New York’s fastest bike messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in the opening minutes of Premium Rush. It’s a sentiment any big-city cyclist can relate to, though this guy is the type of I-own-the-road daredevil who causes the accidents in real life. Speeding through Manhattan without breaks or gears, Gordon-Levitt’s Wilee—like the Coyote, yes—seems to possess the heightened awareness of Spider-Man or Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes. He can see all possible points of impact—a superpower that becomes especially handy after he inadvertently picks up the film’s pocket-sized MacGuffin and finds himself racing across town, a psychotic cop (Michael Shannon) in hot pursuit.
Dipping into Danny Boyle’s bag of speed-demon tricks, writer-director David Koepp (Stir of Echoes) zigzags through time and space, plotting his hero’s course using what looks like a CGI, multidimensional version of MapQuest. Yet his real source of inspiration seems to be the unpretentious genre cinema of energetic hack David R. Ellis—especially the city-spanning Cellular. The thrills here are admirably analog: Busy streets become narrow obstacle courses, with Koepp’s camera weaving through tightly packed traffic, and the director staging each chase sequence as a series of flinchworthy near-collisions. Want more from a late-summer joyride than slides, wheelies and bunny hops? Get a load of Shannon, dementedly inspired, trying out an oddball accent and Richard Widmark giggle.