- Vancouver, British Columbia - Mountain biking used to be something that I really enjoyed, since I grew up in a community with an extensive number of hills, though I will admit that I generally preferred going down the hills more than up them. Cycling, however, was not something of which I was particularly fond, and considering how I generally feel about cyclists on the road, I don't think I'd ever want to take it up myself knowing that everyone else was wishing that I'd just stay off the road and on the sidewalk, even if I'm not allowed. Then it should come as no surprise that I wasn't exactly drawn to Premium Rush, when I first heard about it. It sounded like a rather dull and unappealing story, but ultimately what drew me in was solely Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and if you're like me, you're a big fan of his stuff recently, tracing back to 500 Days of Summer.
Premium Rush tells the story of bicycle courier, Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is also a law school graduate who never took the Bar exam, since he hated the idea of a life in a suit. Perhaps someone forgot to tell him until he finished law school. That aside, his girlfriend, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) has a roommate, Nima (Jamie Chung) who needs a mysterious package delivered. She seems extraordinarily concerned that the package arrives on time and to the right person. Wilee is personally requested, so he picks it up, but along the way, he quickly learns that there is someone else who wants to intercept the package, a certain Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), a gambling-addicted NYPD detective, who, due to some bad debts, is extorted to steal the package on behalf of an Chinese gang. Not surprisingly, when cycling through Manhattan in rush hour, there are a number of things that can go wrong and just about all of them do in this film.
The first thing that comes to mind about this film when considering a review for it is the terribly annoying music. It isn't that the music itself was bad, nor were the performances of the musicians terrible, but the matching of the music to the scenes in the film was just gratingly bad. About the only circumstance when the music was awesome was The Who's "Baba O'Riley." Throughout the film, we're led to believe that it should be an adrenaline rush, but the music often counteracts the thrilling moments of the film, which was highly dissatisfying. I've said a number of times that when one has the music drawing them away from the film, a serious mistake had been made, as the music should almost seamlessly compliment the film by emphasizing what is going on in the screen and not taking the audience away from the visuals that they are witnessing.
Editing in this film was something that I couldn't quite make my mind up about. The film is not told in a strictly linear fashion, but one that goes backwards and forwards through time to flesh out the story and explain certain character motivations. At times it interfered with the sustainment of tension within the film by breaking it up, which isn't always a bad move, but in this film, there were times when it just made the viewing experience feel more drawn out than it ought. And it is strange to say this, because the film's run time was only 91 minutes, so it wasn't even that long of a film.
The editing altogether was not terrible though, as scene transitions were actually done in an interesting fashion with multimedia integration, which sought to place the audience somewhat into the experience of a bicycle courier, and while I don't doubt that it ultimately came short of conveying the experience, it was a worthy, if not flawed effort in this regard.
The performance of Michael Shannon as Bobby Monday also left me feeling mixed, as it was apparent that Shannon is a very gifted actor, but his character didn't make for a very charismatic villain, per se. We knew that he would stop at nothing to apprehend the package, but personally, I didn't find him instilling much in the way of fear. It was almost as though we knew what was going to happen to him long before the film had finished. Perhaps this isn't the fault of Shannon, but ultimately, the film lacked an antagonist that raised the stakes in a gripping manner. Instead, the moment when the tension is elevated the most is probably when we actually learn what the package is for.
As for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, this wasn't my favourite role for him, but I can understand that in his position in the industry, he is still working his way into landing consistent lead roles, and I hope that he continues to be given the opportunity to carry a film. He is among the more entertaining and consistent actors in the business right now, and he performed well enough for a character that wasn't that likeable.
Premium Rush is a film that I don't think I'd ever watch again. It wasn't really one that I enjoyed, nor would I really recommend it amongst some of the competition it is up against. An action thriller about delivering a package in Manhattan just wasn't compelling enough. When the ending of the film comes, it lacks a powerful climax and feels like it just twitters out to its conclusion. There are better films to watch this year.
Rating: 2.5/5 Sour Grapes