Premium Rush (2012)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Premium Rush</strong> (2012)

(Video on Demand, January 2013) There are times during Premium Rush where it’s not clear whether we’re watching a straightforward action thriller, or a glorification of the New York bike courier subculture.  But why can’t it be both?  After all, it’s practically a given that if you want to write an easy story set in any subculture, you bring in money, violence, chases and corrupt cops.  Here, Joseph Gordon-Lewitt easily buffers his credentials as a hot young actor equally capable of playing action hero as he is in delivering sometimes-awkward dialogue: he plays the best of the Manhattan couriers, soon involved way over his head as a hilariously intense Michael Shannon chases him down.  It’s all slap-and-dash by-the-number plotting, but writer/director David Koepp keeps things moving at a satisfying pace through interludes zooming around New York, hopping back and forth in time as the glory and danger of being an NYC bike courier is graphically described.  There’s some satisfying black comedy in the way our protagonist sees the world, and some meta-amusement once viewers understand the way the cycling set-pieces are lined up in a row: Here’s some Central Park racing, here’s stunting in a warehouse; here’s a hip reference to flash-mobbing…  You’d think that 2012 was a bit late in the movie-making game to deliver such blunt material, but Premium Rush is that kind of film: no subtext, straightforward dialogue, convenient coincidences and half-hearted plot justifications.  (Well, maybe not even half-hearted –No one ever thinks of using the subway in this movie.)  Does it work?  Sure, but only in the barest sense: It moves along, delivers the goods with a bit of visual flourish and Gordon-Lewitt manages to be not annoying in a generally annoying role.  But that’s it: If you’re thinking about Premium Rush as being anything but a glossy Hollywood look into bike messenger subculture, it’s disappointing.  The film doesn’t sustain a serious second-guessing of its assumptions, and relies on stock clichés far too often to be respectable.  Simply put, it could have been quite a bit better –either as a thriller or as a look into the subculture.

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