Premium Rush


I Want to Ride My Bicycle, I Want to Ride My Bike…

Main Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Director: David Koepp

I live in a house filled with people who ride bicycles, both for transportation and pleasure.  Which is great.  It’s also an excellent excuse for me to rent Premium Rush, an action movie about a NYC bike messenger.  You see, I can pretend it’s all about the bike, but I know that it’s really all about me wanting to watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt do, well, anything.  It’s a win-win situation, really.

Premium Rush is the story of Wilee, bike messenger extraordinaire in a city filled with crazy, risk taking bike messengers who fly through traffic to make deliveries.  Wilee rides a bike without brakes, pays no heed to traffic rules and generally does the job for the rush it gives him (he does have other options, having graduated from law school and all).  He loves the danger, so he maximizes it every chance he gets.

But his love of risk, danger and the rush has limits – he really only loves them when he feels like he’s in control.  When he picks up a package that makes him the target of a seriously unscrupulous police officer, he isn’t so excited.  He’s happy to dodge traffic, but not when that traffic is deliberately trying to run him down.  As he learns more about the package he’s carrying he becomes increasingly determined that it will be delivered as promised. And so the chase is on – cop vs. bike.

Joseph Gordon Levitt by gdcgraphics

Joseph Gordon Levitt

Premium Rush is not a movie for everyone.  If the idea of bicycles riding the same roads as cars gives you road rage, don’t see it.  If you think all cyclists are assholes that flaunt traffic rules and deserve their inevitable demise, don’t see it.  If you don’t want your children to torture you by declaring that they are going to become NYC bike messengers, don’t let them see it (I say this from experience – my days will never be tranquil again).  If you dig bikes and like action movies, absolutely go for it.

There isn’t a lot of plot here; it’s really just a car chase movie with bikes.  But the cyclists are cool, the stunt riding is pumped with gleeful, self-destructive abandon and Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets maximum mileage out of his minimal character.  Wilee provides some voice-over narration explaining the rush of biking through the crowded streets of NYC, weaving through traffic, making his deadlines, doing it all with his own power.  Gordon-Levitt doesn’t do flat characters – Wilee isn’t just a fool on a bicycle, he’s a fool addicted to adrenaline, proud of his skills and quirky enough to stop off at a police station during his delivery to report that someone tried to run him down.  It’s not a complex role, but I ended up liking this insane guy.

The rest of the cast is all just filler.  The girl messenger Wilee loves, the buffed up messenger who envies Wilee, the cop who wants that package bad enough to kill Wilee for it and a whole lot of crazy riders who provide chase scene support.  The movie isn’t fun because of the characters, it’s fun because of the action.  Watching these guys stunt ride through traffic is a blast, as split second choices are mapped in slow motion, with each horrible outcome shown before the only non-lethal option is discovered and taken.  Trick rider extraordinaire Danny McAskill shows up to do some great stunts in a parking garage on a trick bike, adding another little bit of bike geek fun to the proceedings.

Overall, if you have any sort of love for the joy of riding a bike and even a moderate amount of love for the chase movie in general, you’ll enjoy Premium Rush.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the cherry on this adrenaline, testosterone, single gear, no brakes bike insanity sundae.  If you bike, enjoy.  If you don’t, skip it.

photo by gdcgraphics

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