“Premium Rush” tries to raise your heartbeat and at the same time invest you in a number of characters. It actually works pretty well, but don’t go into it looking for any real depth.
I guess the movie’s not going for character development (reread the title), but it’s still not great at providing a rush either. There’s something about a movie starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is solid in more dynamic roles in blockbusters like “Inception” or “Dark Knight Rises,” which suggests this isn’t going to be just some typical thriller.
Gordon-Levitt is a bicycle delivery man, Wilee, working for a messenger service which he explains as a low-paid job that is much-hated by New Yorkers. But he loves it. The whole movie revolves around him and a few others working at this service — his girlfriend, his dispatcher and a jackass competitor of his who repeatedly tries to steal his work and his girl.
The trailer suggests the potential for a psychological thriller of the “Phone Booth” type. Gordon-Levitt picks up a package, seemingly for a normal delivery, but is then bombarded by a thug in a suit,
Bobby Monday, who we soon learn is a cop. Michael Shannon plays an awful and violent Monday, but is just crazy enough so that his high-speed chase (he in a car, Wilee on a bike) and ensuing harassment of the biker is pretty funny.
The movie doesn’t go for an overarching theme of corruption, but instead dives into the issues of this one aggravated detective, one reckless messenger and a slew of other characters thrown together in a “Crash”-like compilation of stories.
There’s no real defining undercurrent to this movie, but in terms of straight entertainment, it does a pretty good job. It takes an interesting, though I’m not sure how accurate, look at this bike messenger subculture in New York City.
In its attempt to provide a “rush,” the movie’s entire plot takes place over about a two-hour period (with a few flashbacks), which provides an interesting format for telling this story.
And of course it provides Gordon-Levitt in all of his glory. But really, there is something about this former “3rd Rock from the Sun” star that just seems to draw audiences in. I’m not sure what it is, but he definitely has a quality that has landed him among the rising stars in the past few years.
Gordon-Levitt has broken out since starring in smaller films, “The Lookout” (2007) and “500 Days of Summer” (2009) — the first led to many great reviews of his work and the second blew up and brought his face into many homes — but now that he has supported a few blockbusters, it seems he may be ready to star in one of his own.
“Premium Rush” isn’t that movie, but maybe it will set him up for a bigger thriller, and maybe it will be more satisfying than this good, not great, film. I think three out of five popcorns is fair.