Premium Rush

 

Directed by David Koep. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez 12A cert, general release, 91 min

HERE’S A perfectly beautiful idea for an action film. A bicycle courier has a certain amount of time to get from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Chinatown in the southeast. It seems straightforward. But, as events progress, complications set in and blood gets spilt upon the baking asphalt.

You can’t beat that.

Unfortunately, David Koep, director of the excellent romantic comedy Ghost Town, has decided that he can and will beat that. Premium Rush over-complicates itself with an excessively fussy MacGuffin (some twaddle about a wee boy in China), an unnecessary romantic subplot and much silly graphical baloney involving maps and animated arrows.

For all that, the flick still works as an adrenaline delivery system. The suddenly unavoidable Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a cyclist named Wilee in honour of the antagonist from the Road Runner cartoons. The allusion is befuddling: Michael Shannon clearly demonstrates a much closer affinity with that consistently frustrated wild dog.

Playing a corrupt cop who needs the bit of paper (honestly, you won’t care why) that JGL is transporting downtown, Shannon stomps and fumes with near-primal enthusiasm. If he encountered a tunnel painted onto the side of Grand Central Station, he’d surely drive his car straight into it. Meanwhile, the hero flits between trucks and dodges opening taxi doors with all the cheeky (and faintly annoying) confidence of the bird that beeped.

The strange, closed, bravado world of bicycle couriers has always been ripe for exploitation. Koep doesn’t quite break their sacred code, but Premium Rush does a super job of getting across the dangerous rush. One occasionally spots a smudge of computer- generated chrome. For the most part, however, the picture offers us dizzyingly impressive location work: clanking, clattering sashays through New York traffic that must have been a nightmare to shoot.

A least one reviewer cycled home from the screening in a state of uncharacteristic nervousness.

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