Release Date: 14th September, 2012
Director: David Koepp
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Jamie Chung
With Looper just around the corner, I know I’m all a buzz for anything Joseph Gordon-Levitt. So I was looking forward to David Koepp’s new film, Premium Rush starring Levitt as main character, Wilee (like the Coyote), a NYC bike messenger who gets caught in some “srs bsns” with a mystery package under premium rush. Unfortunately, like the phrase ‘srs bsns’, the film is quickly brought down by its supposed ‘youth’ aesthetic as it stumbles over the silliest of plot holes and circumstances.
Rush opens with Levitt being thrown in the air in slow-motion after a crash, creating an arc over the camera. After showing Levitt on the ground, eyes closing, the film then employs its signature narrative technique: flashback through re-winded digital clock display.
It’s a fairly standard device which easily fits in with the bike messenger basis. It’s also clear how much Koepp loves the device as it becomes a regular feature throughout the rest of the film. While I liked the device at first, the technique seems detrimental to the thriller genre Rush is aiming for. Levitt’s character is forever claiming “breaks are death” and that he “can’t stop. [Doesn’t] want to”, yet this clock device is forever stopping the narrative to go back and explain the background of a new reveal in the plot. While this technique is not new to the thriller genre, there is a whiff of contradiction in this particular film. However, this is perhaps one of the least annoying attributes.
A lot of the characters are pretty one-dimensional, mirroring the simplicity of the plot. Levitt is a Law School drop-out who hates the idea of becoming a suit which fuels his need to ride, Michael Shannon is the suited villain of the film as a bad cop who’s trying to pay back gambling debts and Jamie Chung is playing an immigrant on a student visa who is sending the mysterious package. I have seen Chung in a few roles now, always with an american accent but in Rush, she has a chinese accent, one that sounds more forced and stereotypical than authentic. After a while, you get used to its clunk but it definitely distracts in the beginning.
For some reason, Levitt’s character, Wilee, is determined to be the hero. The beginning of Rush I’ve already described is about 2 thirds of the way into the film’s narrative. *caution: some spoilers ahead*When we return to the scene later on, he’s being taken away in an ambulance for several broken ribs and other injuries. He’s asked girlfriend, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), to get the package to the destination but then appears later, alongside Shannon, potentially sabotaging the delivery even further, just so he can play hero with his stunt bike tricks. At the end of the film, we see the bike messenger community come together to protect the package. What could have been a simple stand off turns into “bully the suit” with one of the closing lines the always clever “Suck it, douchebag”. Classy. *end of spoilers*
However, the film isn’t a complete loss. It does have some interesting ideas, mostly the camera shots during the bike rides, mostly taken from the back wheel of Levitt’s bike. It also plays with GPS tracking, tying in well with the bike messenger’s need to find the ideal route. Though this is perhaps overloaded since the film also uses a 3D map to quicken action by literally cutting corners.
Overall, Premium Rush is not a great film. Interesting ideas are not enough to distract from the awkward characterisations, clunky narration or plot faults. However, maybe I’m looking for too much from this film. If you looking for a vaguely actiony film with bike messengers stickin’ it to the man (and are therefore 12, maybe 15), then this is the film for you. I’ll just wait patiently for Looper to come out and be awesome.