‘Premium Rush’ delivers action, originality

Article Published: Aug. 30, 2012 | Modified: Aug. 30, 2012
‘Premium Rush’ delivers action, originality

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in ‘Premium Rush.’

In today’s age of remakes, reboots, reimaginings, repurposings and reporpoisings (OK, I made that last one up), new ideas are more than welcome, even if it’s something seemingly mundane.

“Premium Rush” – an action movie about New York City bicycle messengers – delivers.

Despite some cookie-cutter characters and a somewhat contrived plot, this fresh concept, combined with well-shot action and stylish direction, make it a surprisingly entertaining ride.

Director and screenwriter David Koepp (“Ghost Town”) is no stranger to outlandish adventure, having written screenplays for such blockbusters as “Jurassic Park,” “Mission: Impossible” and “Spider-Man.” In co-writing “Premium Rush” with “Ghost Town” collaborator John Kamps, he makes it a frenetic, fast-moving, fast-talking feature that seldom applies the brakes.

That’s only appropriate, since the film’s protagonist, Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “The Dark Knight Rises”) – named after the hapless coyote of “Looney Tunes” fame – lives in the same manner. “Brakes will kill you,” he says, also taking his metaphor literally and removing them from his bike.

But Wilee’s reckless abandon makes him one of the best couriers in the city – winding and weaving between cars, trucks and buses, narrowly avoiding pedestrians, predicting his routes like a human GPS and assessing the present situation – and its potential outcomes – like a pedal-powered Sherlock Holmes.

This is why he’s enlisted to deliver a seemingly simple envelope from a friend (Jamie Chung, “Sucker Punch”) to its recipient in Chinatown – a long haul across town, made longer by an unexpected meeting with a mysterious man called Monday (Michael Shannon, HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”).

Monday is after the envelope and proves he’ll go to deadly and dangerous extremes to get it, pursuing Wilee throughout the Big Apple’s core of congested roadways, alleys, parking garages, parks, you name it.

At this point, Wilee realizes he’s in well over his head and that there’s no turning back. However, he’s still in the dark about what’s transpiring around him.

The audience is more or less in the same boat, but director Koepp teasingly fills us in, jumping backwards and forwards in the storyline to fill in the blanks, leaving just enough open to further propel the story.

As we learn more, however, the less interesting it becomes, and the film must rely on its momentum and adrenaline – of which there’s plenty.

Koepp and Kamps throw in a love story between Wilee and fellow courier Vanessa (Dania Ramirez, HBO’s “Entourage”), which actually seems to hamper the pacing, doing nothing for the characters and feeling more like a tacked-on component to appease producers and appeal to a wider audience.

The characters are already thin as it is, but that’s no slight against the actors. Gordon-Levitt is charismatic enough to make it work, while Shannon gleefully sinks his teeth into his role, bringing to mind Nicolas Cage’s superb turn in Werner Herzog’s “The Bad Lieutenant – Port of Call: New Orleans.”

Their performances, coupled with Koepp’s flare for visuals and action, keep “Premium Rush” racing, even through a laughable scene involving a bike messenger flash mob.

The intentional humor, however, keeps the tone just light enough to support the logic- and physics-defying action on screen. The chase sequences – shot tightly by cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen (“Wanted”) – are top-notch and all too refreshing in a time when stunts are created on a computer screen.

Is it premium fare? Probably not. But it’s a breath of fresh air in an otherwise congested city street.

“Premium Rush,” rated PG-13 for some violence, intense action sequences and language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 13-B or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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