I don’t know how a film this entertaining and expertly-made can show up the last week of summer, but I’m not complaining. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose fine work in indie films like The Lookout went ignored by most moviegoers, has finally achieved stardom, and this flashy tale of a bicycle messenger who follows his own playbook is an excellent vehicle for his talents—no pun intended. He trained hard to look believable on that bike, and it shows.
Screenwriter and sometimes-director David Koepp has fashioned a sleek, satisfying movie that never wastes a moment and doesn’t wear out its welcome. (It’s just an hour and a half long.) Like its hero, who rides a no-frills, steel frame bike without brakes, Koepp uses visual razzle-dazzle—and superb second-unit work on the streets of Manhattan—to make his picture cool and contemporary, but he and his writing partner John Kamps are men of experience who know how to tell a good story. That’s what sets this adrenaline-charged movie apart from so many brain-dead action films.
Despite some ingenious visual effects, the director swears that all the hair-raising bicycle stunts we see were performed on camera and not tweaked by CGI. They certainly look real, if not downright impossible at times, which is a big part of the fun.
The movie flips back and forth in time, using shorthand to introduce exposition and backstory in an unconventional way. It’s fresh and clever, but never pretentious, as this is all in the spirit of fun.
Gordon-Levitt is effortlessly credible, on and off the bike, as is the always-riveting Michael Shannon as a cop who’s determined to catch the wily messenger and retrieve the envelope he’s carrying. Dania Ramirez is a good match for Gordon-Levitt as his girlfriend who also speeds around the city.
I don’t think you’ll find any subtext or layers of meaning in Premium Rush, but I do think you’ll have a great time watching the picture, as I did.