Told with a frenetic, breakneck style that nicely evokes the anarchic life- and riding style of the most dedicated bike messengers, Premium Rush is a thrill-packed entertainment designed to be both diverting and fun. The which it is and then some thanks to the cast of solid actors and a story that is almost never too far-fetched. Or at least no more far-fetched than absolutely necessary.
This is a chase film, and the substitution of bicycles for the more traditional cars is novel and no less exciting, particularly because the cyclist being chased is Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He is a law school graduate, disgusted by the idea of being trapped in a suit, and behind the desk while wearing it, coupled with his love for flying on two wheels, has made this career choice the only option for him. Riding a bike with fixed gears and no brakes, his is an ongoing contest between the traffic, pedestrian and engine-powered, that gets in his way of him and his ultimate destination. When tasked with his latest delivery, though, a cop with issues of many sorts is added to his obstacles, as well as his girlfriend and fellow bike messenger, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), breaking up with him, and the constant taunting of his spandexed rival, Manny (Wole Parks). The plot is intricate, but told with a clever series of flashbacks and flash-arounds that bring the various threads into focus when necessary and also serves to keep the audience on its collective toes.
There is no getting around the necessary set of coincidences that must take place in order for the elements of this flick to gel properly, and it’s not hard to surrender to them, such are the high spirits with which the film is imbued. Add to that is the keen sense that while the stakes are high for the characters, the powers that be perfectly understand that they are making an evening’s diversion, not an artistic statement, which in itself may be a perfectly valid artistic statement.
Those same powers take to a graphic approach to how Wilee’s smarts when it comes to getting across town, externalizing his thought processes when it comes to options for crossing a busy street against the light, including the consequences of making the wrong decision, or mapping out the shortest and/or quickest route from point A to point B. Gordon-Levitt, who looks authentic in his bike gear, especially when flying through the air when thrown from cycle, has the right level of commitment and ethics when it comes to Wilee’s dedication to both the spirit and the name of his employers Security Couriers. He also looks more then credible on that bicycle swooping across town as Det. Monday (Michael Shannon), the dirty cop chasing him is equally deft in a car despite being hampered by the bulkier conveyance. Shannon is also deft with the character of a simmering psycho prone to bad decisions and poor impulse control. There is a diabolical crispness to his fits of madness as well as to his equally swift recovery of at least some of his senses.
Wilee’s credo, that brakes are death, is also the credo of the film. Playing with timelines the way Wilee plays with traffic and the threat of broken bones or worse, it plunges along fearlessly to tell a cracking good popcorn-flick of a tale of true love, moral absolutes, and the addiction of adrenaline.