Premium Rush

Premium Rush

2012, PG-13, 91 min. Directed by David Koepp. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Jamie Chung, Aasif Mandvi, Wolé Parks, Christopher Place, Henry O.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 24, 2012

Dodging Manhattan traffic has never been a sport for the fainthearted. Weaving through traffic as a bicycle messenger on a single-gear bike with no brakes is the sign of someone with a death wish or, as Premium Rush would have it, the symbol of the new urban hero/outlaw. Essentially a chase movie, Premium Rush is heavier on action than it is on plot, which is a shame since it’s directed and co-written by David Koepp, the esteemed screenwriter turned occasional writer/director, whose early career is notable for, among other things, his tangled, complex scenarios for such films as Carlito’s Way, Snake Eyes, and Mission: Impossible.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Wilee (as in Coyote), the movie’s daredevil protagonist. A law school dropout, Wilee loves the freedom and adrenaline rush of pedaling nonstop across the city. We know this because he tells us so in a voiceover monologue. To make up for this character’s wind-to-his-back dramatic arc, Premium Rush has cast Michael Shannon as the film’s heavy: the unhinged and volatile detective, Bobby Monday. Unhinged is a characteristic that has become synonymous with Shannon’s burgeoning film career (see Take Shelter, Revolutionary Road, and Boardwalk Empire for a few more popular examples). Shannon is required to do all the dramatic heavy lifting here, so the actor can be forgiven if he seems to go a bit overboard in terms of the character’s mania. The secret of what Wilee is carrying in his messenger bag is stretched out, but it nevertheless seems unlikely that a courier would risk life and limb to protect its contents.

The riding is fun to watch for a while but it will soon seem repetitive to all but the most serious bicycle gearheads. The camerawork is largely naturalistic, with computer touches added to simulate overhead map views and strategic calculations that look very much like sports graphics that use superimposed arrows to elucidate a player’s drive to the basket or path through a defensive line. Yet the action is neither cathartic nor supremely exhilarating. Bullitt on a bike this film is not.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More David Koepp Films
You Should Have Left
You probably shouldn't stay for this middling supernatural mystery

Richard Whittaker, June 19, 2020

Johnny Depp fails to unleash his inner Peter Sellers in this globetrotting spy comedy.

Kimberley Jones, Jan. 30, 2015

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
SXSW Film Review: The Greatest Hits
SXSW Film Review: The Greatest Hits
Love means never having to flip to the B side

March 16, 2024

SXSW Film Review: The Uninvited
SXSW Film Review: The Uninvited
A Hollywood garden party unearths certain truths

March 12, 2024


Premium Rush, David Koepp, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Jamie Chung, Aasif Mandvi, Wolé Parks, Christopher Place, Henry O

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle