Premium Rush (2012) a (very) Belated Review

There was a time when I would have described myself as something of a movie snob. I enjoyed the hell out of watching films, mind you, but I was the sort of fan who would nitpick all the faults I’d see in films, even the ones I adored.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve mellowed out considerably. As an author, I know the hard work that goes into making something and I know that as a creator you simply can’t do everything you want with whatever work you’re involved in. Sometimes, you may be a victim of a time crunch. Other times, you simply miss out on something that others may notice (the dreaded not quite seeing the forest for the trees cliche). Other times you did the best you could and need to let a project go -you can literally spend your whole life revising and revising and revising a work if you let yourself.

Anyway, long story short, the 2012 film Premium Rush was on yesterday on one of the premium cable stations and I started watching it and damned if I didn’t find it interesting enough to keep watching it through.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

Let me state up front: This is a popcorn film through and through. There’s no intention, by the actors, producers, directors, and screenwriters, to make something deep which explores the human condition.

The story involves Wilee (as in Wile E. Coyote) a bike courier (Joseph Gorden-Levitt, enjoyable as our protagonist) versus Bobby Monday, a corrupt cop (Michael Shannon, not quite chewing all the scenery and never presented as too terribly evil… but evil enough) who hides his true identity behind the phony name Forrest J. Ackerman (a nice, though coming out of nowhere in-joke for movie fans).

Wilee is hired to deliver a letter and Bobby Monday very much needs to intercept it and get his hands on it.

The movie involves the efforts by both to take care of this McGuffin letter.

I won’t get into too many spoilers about what the letter has -this is explained, naturally, in the course of the movie- but suffice to say there’s a noble reason to deliver the letter and an evil reason by our corrupt cop to get his hands on it.

The movie could have been dark, presenting the villain as an out of control killer and New York as a slaughter ground for bike couriers, but instead decided to go for a much lighter presentation. The film is amiable, surprisingly so, and the interactions between Wilee and Bobby Monday are often semi-humorous, though the tension is always there.

The only debit I’d place on the film is that, like the Road Runner cartoon character Wilee’s name is based on, there isn’t much “there” there. The plot is pretty simple, the various characters’ motivations too, and by the time the story unfurls, one can’t help but feel the movie would -and maybe should- have been much shorter. To expand the time, the film often goes back in time to fill us in on events which led to where we are “now”. At times its interesting though at times these little past interludes feel like they break up the movie’s momentum.

The director/co-writer of the film is David Koepp, who is perhaps best known for screenplays rather than direction. Among the movies he’s written screenplays for are Jurassic Park, Carlito’s Way, Mission Impossible, and the Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man. Most recently he directed the suspense/horror film You Should Have Left with Kevin Bacon. He does a decent job here, clearly showing us the action and immersing us in this version of New York City, full of people and buildings and cars… plenty of obstacles your average bike courier has to deal with.

Again, while the film may not be a masterpiece of cinema, its a pleasant enough time killer with a pleasant cast of characters. You could do far worse than spend a quiet afternoon watching Premium Rush.