Eye For Film >> Movies >> Premium Rush (2012) Film Review
Reviewed by: David Graham
Basically a wannabe-hipster smart-ass Speed on two wheels, David Koepp’s new movie coasts by on fumes and nervous energy, riffing on the sort of B-pic knowing that Larry Cohen brought to diverting direct-to-DVD-but-for-the-budget thrillers Phone Booth and Cellular but never quite sustaining the suspense that the best no-brainers effortlessly achieve through sheer paucity and audacity. Joseph Gordon Levitt risks smarm with his so-hot-right-now turn stolen straight from Point Break-era Keanu Reeves – a comparison that he’s already been negatively pegged with – while Michael Shannon almost literally eats up everyone and everything around him in a fashion that’s as enjoyable as it is indulgent, but Premium Rush somehow emerges relatively unscathed despite its myriad niggling flaws.
Hotshot bicycle courier Wilee tears up the tarmac in perma-gridlocked Manhattan: when technology fails, he delivers, risking life and limb for the thrill of it when he should be sitting the bar to become a lawyer with the rest of the suits he so despises. His daily dramas with his feisty Latino girlfriend and cock-sparring competitors fade into insignificance when he finds his integrity challenged by a dodgy detective trying to intercept a valuable package, which turns out to have significance beyond even its financial value. Hindered by a dogged bike cop and a chivalrous love rival, Wilee starts to question the peril he’s putting himself into, but when he realises what’s at stake he rallies his troops to make sure his bounty doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Koepp’s visual style references sat-nav and smart-phone technology from the get-go in ways that will make some viewers either cringe or balk, but his in-your-face video-game style is part and parcel of the mindset he’s at pains to portray for his characters. Wilee’s name is doubly ironic for the cartoonish way he and his cohorts deal with their deadly duties, literally bouncing off obstacles and skirting disaster at every turn in a way that glamorises the courier lifestyle in almost irresponsible fashion. All of this is just about excusable though thanks to the sheer bravado with which he pulls off the bike-bound action; it’s impossible not to feel the burn and taste the appeal of the antisocial antics of his hell-bent protagonists.
In the other corner, hard-boiled gambling addict Michael Shannon could give Harvey Keitel a run for his money in the Bad Lieutenant stakes; his schtick borders on parody, but it’s entirely apt for the heightened whim the whole film coasts on. Some dodgy racial stereotyping lets the bit-players down – Chinese New Yorkers get a particularly bad rap – and woeful banter that school-kids would sniff at threatens to throw any semblance of audience investment out the window, but for the most part the script knows its place, only slipping up when it strains to throw political nous into the equation, the references to the recession and immigration coming off as cheap blows rather than insightful nods.
The real strengths of this picture lie in the zippy camerawork and asphalt-shredding location work, the sheer speed at which Manhattan moves tangible in every frame. Some unnecessarily nasty violence occasionally puts a dampener on proceedings, while the plotting takes too many credibility-straining diversions into overly elaborate complication just for the sake of prolonging what should be a lean run-time, but Premium Rush is a nifty little flick that’s well worth a spin. It never hits the heady heights of its high-concept, low-brow inspirations – Koepp may be slick and smart but he can’t build tension any better than he can create characters we actually care for – but his palpable affection for this kind of nonsense is infectious.Reviewed on: 22 Sep 2012