Premium Rush

© 2012 Ray Wong

One thing for certain, before I started writing, I was thinking hard: "What did I see for the review?" I couldn't so I had to check IMDB. And that's how memorable Premium Rush was to me.

Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a law school dropout in Manhattan who prefers to being a bike messenger to a desk job. He craves the adrenaline rush, and the "live the moment" lifestyle. He's also having an on-and-off-again relationship with fellow worker Vanessa (Dania Ramirez). One afternoon, Wilee takes a rush order from Vanessa's roommate (and his previous classmate -- more on that later), Nima (Jamie Chung), to deliver an important envelope to Chinatown. Apparently, Wilee is the only person good for the job.

It turns out another person is interested in the envelope as well, and that is Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), a NYPD detective. Wilee, being a stubborn, principled guy, refuses to give Monday the goods. Instead, Monday ruthlessly chases him around Manhattan. After almost being run over a few times, Wilee begins to realize something is really wrong.

He returns to campus and asks Lima what exactly is in the envelope. Nima reveals that she's been involved in an underground money system so she can bring her young son to America, and the envelope contains a receipt of the money that is good as cash. The ticket must be delivered in less than an hour and Nima can't trust anyone else. Wilee decides to help Nima, but the relentless Monday is hot on his trail.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises) can't seem to do wrong these days, after having resurrected his career with a string of commercial and critical successes ((500) Days of Summer, 50/50 and Inception, to name a few). Unfortunately, as likable and charismatic as Wilee is, the character is simply too one-dimensional. He is a stereotype. Gordon-Levitt does his best, and he is tremendously charming and physically fit, but the role doesn't offer him much depth.

Dania Ramirez (American Reunion) has yet to find a role that would define her movie career. As Wilee's on-and-off girlfriend and sidekick, Ramirez has the physicality for the job, but that's about it. There really isn't much else there emotionally. Michael Shannon (Jonah Hex) is the perfect go-to guy for the role of Bobby Monday -- he excels in playing someone who is odd, ruthless and we'd love to hate.

The rest of the cast does their part in supporting roles. Wolé Parks (Gossip Girl) plays a typical know-it-all; his physicality is impressive. Jamie Chung (The Hangover 2) succumbs to stereotype by playing the demure, timid, brainy Asian girl. Christopher Pace (Step Up 3D) seems to have a fun time playing a frustrated bike cop, and Aasif Mandvi (Ruby Sparks) does his part as Wilee's obnoxious boss.

Written by blockbuster writers David Koepp (Angels & Demons) and John Kemps (Ghost Town), the screenplay is a typical Hollywood adrenaline rush. It follows the thriller structure closely, starting with an action cliffhanger and then revealing the plot in a sometimes out-of-chronological order. The plot is fast-paced. In fact, the character Wilee is referred to as the Wild Coyote, and that's exactly what the story is -- a live-action version of The Roadrunner and the Coyote. The plot and set pieces, and to a great extent the characters, too, are set up to give us one chase after another.

While these scenes are exhilarating to watch, after a while they become repetitive and tiresome. The worse thing about this movie is that character development is flimsy or non-existent. We're spoon-fed the characters' backgrounds and motivations, and we're expected to accept all that or else the plot would make no sense. The dialogue is trite, and the characters are flat and cliched, from the charismatic hero, his beautiful and resourceful sidekick, to the villains. Furthermore, the plot is convoluted with multiple characters and jumbled timelines. The structure and cast of characters are supposed to give us more chases and action, but the main purpose is to hide how thin the story really is. The entire story seems to be built on a single tagline. It's a true "high concept" movie that Hollywood execs seem to love.

Granted, Koepp also directs and he does everything right by the genre. We have fast cuts, snazzy visuals and exciting stunts. We have the entire city of Manhattan as the backdrop. We have good vs. evil. What can really go wrong?

Well, nothing if you consider this as brainless Sunday afternoon entertainment. And it is exactly that. It's good for 90 minutes, and then you will forget about it. It's the film equivalent of a trashy novel. It may give you a premium rush during its runtime, but don't expect anything premium afterwards.

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dania Ramirez, Michael Shannon, Wolé Parks, Jamie Chung, Christopher Pace, Aasif Mandvi
Director: David Koepp
Writers: David Koepp, John Kemps
Distributor: Sony
MPAA Rating:  PG-13 for some violence, intense action sequences, and language
Running Time: 91 minutes 


Script - 6
Performance - 7
Direction - 7
Cinematography - 8
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 7
Production - 7

Total - 6.8 out of 10.0 

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