Qualifying as the most surprising movie of the year (in a good way), Premium Rush is a peppy, super fast paced happy meal of a thriller. The film also does what last week's Looper did - permanently cements Joseph Gordon Levitt as the most versatile and likable actor of his generation.
Writer-director David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible, Spider-Man) is the fifth most successful Hollywood writer of all time and his experience shows. Premium Rush literally has no room to breathe or veer into unnecessary subplots, Koepp just blazes through the hyperkinetic plot for 90 minutes. Set in NYC and filmed with a snazzy nomadic camera, the film flits around a bike messenger (JGL) who is handed a mysterious parcel to deliver and is chased around town by a dirty cop (a badass Michael Shannon) who desperately wants to grab the packet. The paper thin premise is just about enough for Koepp to hurl his camera around town, capture the adrenaline pumped life of bike messengers and offer you a very entertaining theme park ride of a movie. And miraculously, Koepp does it without the easy means of a shaky cam.
The chase scenes are just insane. JGL (or his stunt double) dodges bullets and weaves through murderous crowds at 40mph, Koepp incorporates an interesting Google Maps style HUD for the bikers’ navigation, and even slow mo and freeze frame shots for alternate routes that a biker might take. The concept or plot may remind one of Tony Scott’s Enemy of the state, but there’s a minty fresh style here that one has never seen in chase scenes - one tends to actually cringe for every near miss. To give you an idea of the film’s ridiculous pace, the protagonist rides a bike called a ‘fixie’ that has no brakes. There are a couple of hokey melodramatic points in the back story but it’s easy to forgive them for all the goodies the film offers. Take your family, take your friends, have a blast.
(First published in Mid Day)