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Premium Rush: The Bike Messenger as Action Hero?

A weak plot and silly villain detract from inventive action and a reliable Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

by
John Boot

Bio

August 24, 2012 - 5:00 am
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The new thriller Premium Rush isn’t a great movie, and its story has more than a few bumps, but it has one thing going for it: It’s a charged-up, full-on, Red-Bull-chugging sample of what life is like for a New York City bike messenger. These are the fearless souls who make FedEx look like the Pony Express.

The messenger is played by one of today’s more capable young actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (a favorite director Christopher Nolan featured in Inception and The Dark Knight Rises). Gordon-Levitt, who prepared for the role so extensively he crashed into a cab and gashed his arm (an accident referred to in a blooper clip after the credits roll) races through the movie as Wilee (named for Wile E. Coyote), a pumped-up Ivy Leaguer who could have been a lawyer but chose the life of adrenaline junkie instead. He’s got girl problems (sexy Vanessa, played by Dania Ramirez, is also pursued by fellow messenger Manny, played by Wolé Parks), he’s got occupational problems (the best parts of Premium Rush are when he’s mentally mapping out a path through the labyrinth of cars, trucks, buses, and pedestrians), and now he’s got a problem with an extra-special package.

The package (really just an envelope) has to be taken from Columbia University’s campus to some questionable characters in Chinatown within an hour and a half, but after picking it up, Wilee finds himself menaced by a guy (Michael Shannon) who claims he’s the head of campus security and demands to be given the envelope. It turns out Shannon’s character is really a cop, Bobby Monday, who owes some Chinatown underworld thugs a lot of money in gambling debts. And the envelope Wilee carries? It’s a kind of deposit slip for an underground Chinese bank with a value of $50,000.

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