Way back in the early hours of this year, we compiled a list of The Ten Most Intriguing Films for 2012. Nestled between a new film penned by the Coen brothers and an indie flick based on a newspaper ad was Premium Rush, an action movie set in the world of bicycle couriers. 9 months later and we’re happy to report that the film lives up to our initial hope of being “Speed on a Schwinn”. And if that ridiculously poor attempt at getting a review quote on the poster seems at once silly and fun, then it fits Premium Rush to a tee.
Bicycle courier Wilee (like the Coyote) lives for the thrill of speeding through the streets of New York on two wheels. Famous amongst his peers for being the quickest, but also the most reckless, of couriers, Wilee’s world takes a turn for the extreme when he’s asked to deliver a package to Chinatown, a package that corrupt New York City cop, Bobby Monday, will do anything to stop reaching its intended destination.
Any internet list compilers constructing a “Top 5 Fictional Bicycle Couriers” piece this weekend will find themselves pretty stumped for content, with Tyres from Spaced representing, pretty much, the grand total of this vilified profession. Yet the nature of the job – Get A to B as fast as humanly possible – makes for one hell of a visceral thrill ride, and one that David Koepp and his team utilise to the fullest.
Flying at breakneck speeds – from ground level gravel churning to soaring above the streets of the Big Apple – the camerawork and effects (used to laugh out loud effect in the ‘alternative reality sequences’) give Premium Rush exactly the kind of pace needed to keep viewers hooked for its sprightly and formulaic length. Coupled with the ‘near as dammit’ real time concept, from the moment Michael Shannon shows up to claim the package as his own the film barely slows down for a second.
Speaking of Shannon, despite having crazier eyes than Krazee Eyez-Killa, he rarely gets to play a full out cold blooded psycho. His two most famous film roles thus far have seen him play unhinged and sympathetic suburban types (Revolutionary Road, Take Shelter) rather than boo-hiss bad guys. But with his biggest roles on the horizon – Zod in next summer’s Man of Steel, along with the lead in The Iceman – Shannon is slowly being let off the leash. A cartoon villain fitting perfectly into a cartoon movie, his ludicrously named cop Bobby Monday inspires a pantomime reaction with every sinister growl.
It’s crucial that Shannon’s scoundrel is as crooked as a none bob note because, as with all great no-brainer action films (Die Hard, Speed), the lead learns absolutely nothing from his experience, meaning if you don’t warm to Wilee early on you might well end up wishing he’d meet with an articulated lorry in the first reel. Those that are on his side, even despite his occupation, will find a hero to root for in a good old fashioned chase caper with a 21st Century edge.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt cements his candidacy as Man Of The Year amongst the cinema going public with the most fun you can have on two wheels without the possibility of having your brains painted all over the curb. Fixed gear. No brakes. No contest for your weekend pick at the cinema.