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Premium Rush


premium rush poster

The marketing campaign for Premium Rush made it seem like a film focusing on bicycle parkour, with stunts on par with the Fast and Furious franchise. After watching it, however, I realized how difficult it must have been to create a trailer. The story never builds and the action stays at the same pace throughout. Therefore, it gets a grade just on the negative side of neutral—it’s JGL so it can’t be all bad.

Grade:

C

Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of the hundreds of bike couriers in NYC. He rides fast and loose with no brakes and no fear because hesitation leads to injuries. When he picks up a package from his friend Nima (Jamie Chung), his day goes from normal to life-threatening, as rogue cop Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon) hounds him for the package.

My expectation for this film was to see some cool bike tricks and some fast chases. We get the latter and very little of the former. The pace of Premium Rush is frantic from the opening credits, but there is only so much interest in seeing a guy on a bike weave through traffic. Writer/director David Koepp chooses interesting graphics to show Wilee’s vision for the paths he chooses when moving through traffic. These graphics provide a small respite from the pacing, but ultimately Rush is one big chase scene. Shannon even points out with a scoff, “I’m chasing a bicycle,” while he is stuck in his clunky vehicle.

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Where Rush falters, though, is in the lack of story development. Wilee is mid-argument with his girlfriend (?) Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) at the start of the film, but we are never given a solid reason as to why she’s angry with him apart from his absence at her graduation. Further, Wilee’s past as a law student is off-handedly mentioned throughout the movie, but seems to solely act as mild exposition and not a driving point behind his actions. Sure, he hates working in an office, but who doesn’t?

Next, his relationship with Nima is never fleshed out. First, Wilee’s boss—played by Aasif Mandvi—seems to recognize her as one of Wilee’s old friends, but every interaction between Nima and Wilee is cold and distant. This might have occurred from Chung’s focus on tapping into her Chinese heritage for the role and JGL’s over-zealous portrayal of sociability, but it ends up looking weird on screen.

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Regardless, Premium Rush is a fun film that passes quickly. Shannon is a great villain, even if Monday is the most absurd characterization of a cop I’ve seen. Meanwhile, Dania Ramirez’s Vanessa is a semi-sidekick, but really her role is to look pretty with a perpetual sheen of sweat glistening from her skin. I’d say give it a go, but don’t expect much.

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