Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review: Premium Rush

I’m going to go ahead and make this official: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Beta is Dead’s number one favorite actor currently active in Hollywood. Rejoice.

Enjoy that hair while it lasts, buddy
Anyway Premium Rush is the new film from director David Koepp. It’s about bike messengers. Now I don’t like bikers. That may sound a bit harsh but when I drive I’m always finding bikers riding all over the road, running stop signs and red lights and generally being in the way. When I’m walking they tend to almost run me off the damn sidewalk. It’s frustrating. Now I hear that New York bike messengers are pretty much this but turned to eleven. So I guess in theory the “action packed” of a reckless bike messenger would make a good summer action thriller, right?

 In a hilarious turn of event the film’s production studio is being sued by author John Quirk as he alleges that his book The Ultimate Rush was the basis of this movie’s plot. I guess his book is about roller blading messengers in California but also supposedly character names were used as well. I’m not sure how true his claims are but in a situation where Hollywood may or may not have screwed someone out of money I’m usually going to assume that they did the screwing. You know, because Hollywood is evil.

Extreme Bike Messaging after the jump.



Cycling is serious business
Wilee (JGL) is a law student turned bike messenger with a reputation of being dangerously reckless. One day he gets an assignment to deliver a package on behalf of his acquaintance Nima (Jamie Chung). However soon after he accepts the job he’s threatened by a mysterious stranger (Michael Shannon) who demands Wilee turn over the package to him. Wilee refuses and takes off but the young messenger has no idea that he has just become a pawn in a dangerous game.

If you’ve seen a trailer or a commercial advertising this film I can tell you that you were misled. The trailers made this look a serious thriller but because it’s about bike messengers it looked overly ridiculous; like a film that didn’t realize how silly it looked. Having now watched the flick I can say that the film is nothing close to the humorless thriller that the ads made it out to be and, much like John Carter earlier this year, I feel that the movie’s success suffered because the studio didn’t properly market it. Take this in mind when decided if you want to check it out.

Anyway the tone of this film has more in common with over the top action films than anything else. It a toned down, PG-13 version of Crank; it’s much stylized and you’re clearly not meant to take it super seriously. And honestly it’s a fun ride; the action is fast and fun and it’s easy to get into it. It’s hard to not enjoy with a movie like Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, it showcases a neat look at a New York City that feels cool and youth oriented. Watching this movie made me feel good to still be in my twenties (for however long that lasts). It’s also well-acted for what it is. JGL is pretty much as he always is; absolutely able to play the character convincingly. Michael Shannon as the antagonist Bobby Monday is also noteworthy.

Jamie Chung is this movie too. I’ve reviewed a few of her movies (coughDBEVOLUTIONcough) but I haven’t mentioned her much. She’s weird in that she managed to successfully transition from Real World cast member (as in the MTV show) to Hollywood actress. She shows up a lot in movies I go see, even if I don’t review them (I’m dreading the day I review The Hangover Part 2). She’s pretty good here as she actually feels like she’s acting rather than just filling the “Vague Asian Girl” role like she normally seems to. Of course she is filling that role here as well but that’s not her fault, its Hollywood’s.

She's easy on the eyes as well
The soundtrack is also really good, save for what I think was a misstep in placement of the song "Baba O’Riley" at the beginning. I really dug the music featured in this flick.

The biggest negative I can say about this movie is that it’s a perfect example of style over substance. It makes a lot of interesting stylistic choices (such as Wilee’s ability to predict traffic) but at the end of the day this isn’t a very intelligent film. It’s still fun and it’s pretty to look at but it’s not something you need use your brain to watch. It’s a very simplistic story that’s being told. Going off from that there’s also the problem of the main character not changing or evolving. I thought about this really carefully and I came to the conclusion that the Wilee character, despite having a whole film dedicated to his adventure, doesn’t have an arc and ends the film pretty much exactly where he began; an overly qualified bike messenger who may or may not have a death wish. The only thing that changes at all is that [SPOILER ALERT] his girlfriend isn’t mad at him anymore. Of course the character is likable and interesting for sure so it’s not as bad as it could have been. There’s also some pretty annoy leaps of logic you have to take in order to get through this plot. If you prefer smart movies that make you think you will not like Premium Rush.

That said I enjoyed the movie and was happy to see it. It’s another example of a decent popcorn film where you can turn your brain off. What it lacks in substance it makes up in fun. In a way it reminds of the old 90s film Hackers in the terms of it takes a sub-culture the avenge person knows little about and tries to make it look like the coolest, and sexiest, thing in the world with its heavy amount of style and heavy exaggeration (and in some cases fabrication). The main different is that unlike Hackers Premium Rush is a pretty good movie that I’d watch again given the chance.

Six second before JGL crashes into the back of a cab
(Seriously. That totally happened during filming)

I give Premium Rush 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.


Pros 

-Unapologetically a fun film to watch

-It looks pretty slick

-Surprisingly well acted

-Great soundtrack

 Cons 

-Not a particularly smart film

-The characters are fairly simplistic

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