Movies: "Premium Rush" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Premium Rush"
Movies: "Premium Rush"

 

While Stallone, Schwarzenegger and the rest of the lumbering action movie troglodytes are earning the name of their latest movie “The Expendables 2,” a bunch of young whippersnappers are riding rings around them in “Premium Rush,” also a particularly apt title.

 

What we have here is a non-stop bicycle chase movie, filmed with little or no CGI on the crowded streets of New York City.  

 

Wilee -- pronounced “Wily,” as in a certain coyote -- (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who can rarely do wrong on screen) is a bike messenger who has to deliver an envelope from Columbia University, on the upper West Side, all the way downtown to Chinatown.  A crooked cop (Michael Shannon, who also plays a lawman in “Boardwalk Empire”) wants what’s in the envelope to pay off a huge gambling debt.  Detective Bobby Monday has a car;  Wilee has a stripped down bike: no gears, no brakes.

 

It’s a simple as that.

 

Director David Koepp (who wrote the screenplay for “Jurassic Park” and directed Johnny Depp in “Secret Window) keeps all the action at street level, except for some clever aerial maps showing Wilee’s intended routes.  He also stops the action from time to time, so we can see Wilee plotting his path across a crowded intersection.  We watch as one possible alternative after another goes wrong:  he hits a baby buggy or he’s creamed by a truck.  Then he chooses his course, and everything swings back into high gear.

 

Along the way, we meet some of the other people involved in the chase, including fellow messengers Vanessa (Dania Ramirez, who played Calisto in “X-Men: The Last Stand”) and Wilee’s vainglorious rival Manny (Wole Parks, Dallas in “As the World Turns,” believe it or not), a beleaguered bike cop (Christopher Place) determined to catch the daredevil messenger, and in a wonderful cameo, Henry O as a sagacious Chinese money man.

 

David Koepp, who co-wrote the movie with John Kamps (“Ghost Town”) enlisted an army of stunt cyclists and drivers -- and the New York Film Commission -- to shoot this movie all around the Big Apple.  In an audacious tribute to one of the greatest movies chases of all time -- William Friedkin’s “The French Connection” -- he even shot part of the action under an elevated subway trestle.  A pulsating music score by David Sardy elevates the careening action, along with cuts from The Who and The Raconteurs, among others.  The cinematography is by Mitchell Van Alden, who led the 2nd unit cameras on such recent blockbusters as “The Bourne Legacy” and “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.”

 

There are some glaring plot issues.  Why couldn't the person sending the envelope to Chinatown just take a cab there?  And how could the bad detective and the bike cop both be working out of the same precinct house?  But who cares?  Just take the ride.

 

Think of some of your favorite movie chase scenes:  “The Road Warrior,” “Ronin,” “To Live and Die in L.A.,” “Bullitt,” and put ‘em on two wheels in the heart of Manhattan.  That’s “Premium Rush.”  It’s rated PG-13 for language and some mild violence.  You'll leave the theater feeling jazzed and happy.

 

I give it a B-Plus.

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