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No Brakes: Premium Rush Review

By on August 26, 2012

If you’ve ever had the experience of manoeuvring around an unpredictable cyclist, you may initially find it hard to sympathize with the hero of Premium Rush, bike messenger Wilee. However if the earnest character, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises, 50/50), doesn’t win you over at the same speed in which he races through the New York City streets, you may want to check your pulse.

From the very beginning of the movie, which opens with a scene of Wilee flying through the air after an accident, it is clear the audience is in for a fast-paced ride. Though he graduated from law school, Wilee chooses to earn his living as a somewhat reckless bike messenger. Throughout the few hours of time that the movie is framed in, Wilee dodges many risky scenarios. When he is in a sticky situation, he runs through the limited options in his mind and picks the least terrifying of them. In his own words, he likes to ride: “Fixed gear. No brakes. Can’t stop. Don’t want to, either.”

His romantic life also appears to be rather tumultuous. His girlfriend, played by Dania Ramirez (American Reunion), dislikes his careless cycling and wants him to take things more seriously. She is also a bike messenger, but she has brakes on her bike. Crazy, right? Of course, it doesn’t help that fellow co-worker Manny is also interested in pursuing her, as he warns Wilee early on.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Wilee and Dania Ramirez as Vanessa. Photo: © Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.

Things really get bumpy when Wilee is assigned the seemingly normal task of delivering a time-sensitive envelope. His first clue that this is an unusual job occurs when corrupt detective Bobby Monday, played by Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire), asks him for the envelope. When Wilee explains that he cannot give out a message that has been put in his bag, Monday is less than understanding. The result is a dangerous cat-and-mouse game that spans the majority of the city in a short amount of time.

Michael Shannon’s villain goes so frequently into the bizarre and humorous that he lacks a certain fear factor. He comes across as endlessly exasperated and comically loud. For example, he is in the middle of accepting a beating when he loses a tooth and becomes enraged. The story would have had a much more ominous feel if his character were more intimidating. As it is, he is a very entertaining roadblock in Wilee’s quest.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who carries the film, is quickly proving that he is leading man material (in case anyone doubted that before). He has a captivating quality that charms the audience and is golden for the big-screen. Judging by the thirty-one stitches the actor received after injuring himself on-set, he also appears to truly throw himself into his roles.

Writer/director David Koepp (Angels & Demons, Mission: Impossible) plays with the timeline by bouncing back and forth from present time. In the various flash backs, we learn why the coveted envelope is so important to each character. The jarring pacing and scene breaks compliment the nature of a movie featuring incautious cyclists. Even as Wilee continuously brushes with death in his daily pursuits, the mood remains light-hearted.

While it may not be a character study full of existential questions for its audience, Premium Rush delivers a quality summer action flick with a fun twist. Check out the trailer below.