Premium Rush is so densely packed with rich, delicious cheese that lactose-intolerant members of the audience are liable to explode halfway through the film. Michael Shannon’s performance as the villain is so hammy that Premium Rush just ain’t kosher. This is exactly the kind of movie we need to shake off the late summer blues. It’s impossible to watch this effervescent detonation of cinematic ecstasy without grinning ear to ear. My god, this is entertainment. Ridiculous, awesome entertainment.
David Koepp co-wrote and directed this playful love note to New York bike messengers, whose workaday routine is exaggerated to implausible degrees, elevating a relatively underappreciated profession to royalty. It’s the same approach that Robert Rodriguez applied to El Mariachi, taking the mundane and soaking it in genre nonsense until the most overlooked members of society are permanently tinted a brilliant shade of badass. These are not bike messengers. These are gods. Flagellate yourself accordingly.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Wilee, a bike messenger who considers little things like “gears” and “brakes” to be laughably redundant. He lives on the edge, and right there with him is Detective Bobby Munday, played by Michael Shannon, who will stop at nothing to retrieve a package Wilee has been tasked with delivering during a particularly hazardous rush hour. The non-stop chase sequence spans from one end of New York City to the other, back again, and tosses in a race through the park just for the hell of it.
Who knew that riding bicycles was a non-stop adrenaline thrill ride of epic proportions? David Koepp, apparently, who in his fifth ambitious but downplayed genre directorial effort zips from shot to shot, as if his directorial style was inspired by a 24-hour espresso binge. He knows when to slow down, but like Wilee, he never taps the breaks. Energy bursts from every frame, little jokes fly by like they were the most serious dialogue in the world, and Michael Shannon should probably just camp out at the Kodak Theater now, since he’s Oscar caliber as the most hilariously whacked out cop in movie history. This is no mere bad guy. This is Jack Sparrow with no morals or impulse control.
I am not overselling this movie. This is joy. This is an action lover’s wet dream, with enough character and self-aware intelligence to forgive the rampant silliness at play. If you can’t get on Premium Rush’s wavelength, I feel so very sorry for you. It must hurt to live in your world. Does chocolate taste bad to you? Are the Beatles always off-key? If Premium Rush is any indication, pessimism in our world is dead. Long live everything else.
If this review does seem hyperbolic to you, take a second to think about what that means; that a movie, however simplistic, could make this diehard cynic squeal with delight. It’s honest about its ambitions, and achieves its every goal by making no apologies for its absurd behavior. If you only see one bike messenger-centric action movie this year, make it Premium Rush. You’ll be glad you did.