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"PREMIUM RUSH"
(2012) (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action: A NYC bike courier must deal with various obstacles, including a corrupt cop, while attempting to deliver a package across Manhattan.
PLOT:
Wilee (JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT) is a bike courier who works the busy streets of Manhattan delivering packages for clients who need that done quickly. Riding a bike with no gears or brakes, he's good at what he does, although he has to compete with the likes of Manny (WOLE PARKS) for jobs from Raj (AASIF MANDVI), their dispatcher.

His latest delivery is handed to him by office worker Nima (JAMIE CHUNG), a young woman who's just told her roommate, Vanessa (DANIA RAMIREZ), that she needs to move out. That's something Wilee finds briefly interesting as Vanessa has just broken up with him.

But Wilee has more things to be concerned about, including a NYC bike cop who's after him, as well as a man who's quite desperate to get his hands on Nima's delivery envelope. That turns out to be crooked NYC cop Bobby Monday (MICHAEL SHANNON) who needs what's in the package in order to deal with his mounting gambling debts.

As the time counts down toward his delivery deadline, Wilee tries to figure out what's going on and then avoid Monday and the bike cop who are determined to catch him, all while hoping to make amends with Vanessa.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Back in the late 1970s and early '80s, the memorable advertising slogan for FedEx was "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight." And considering the logistics involved -- a person or company getting the package ready and delivering it to or having it picked up by FedEx; that being taken to the sorting center and then the airport to be flown to the destination airport; and then driven to the nearest FedEx center, put on a truck and delivered -- it was amazing they could pull it off.

Of course, they weren't and aren't the only company to guarantee delivery times, and in many big cities that's achieved through the use of bicycle couriers. After all, with gridlock occurring even outside of rush hour being a common malady in downtown metropolitan area nowadays, getting a package delivered by truck, van or car isn't always feasible. All while they're technically (and legally in many jurisdictions) not supposed to ride between stopped cars or on sidewalks, if a delivery absolutely, positively has to be there, a bicyclist can use those tactics to make it happen.

Such is the life of Wilee in the action flick "Premium Rush." As played by the always charismatic Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he's the sort of courier you routinely see darting through traffic, zipping through red lights and using any means possible to drop off his delivery within a certain time parameter. He's good at what he does, and thus is the choice of a young woman (Jamie Chung) who needs one hundred percent certainty that her envelope will make it way across Manhattan to the right person in the set amount of time.

Not knowing or caring what's in the package, he's surprised, irritated and then more than a bit nervous when what turns out to be a cop (Michael Shannon) wants to get his hands on that, and then sets off on a chase (in his car after Wilee on his bike) that constitutes pretty much the majority of the film.

As penned by writer/director David Koepp and co-scribe John Kamps, there really isn't much more than that, essentially making this a one-note idea. Sure, there's a bit about Wilee's fellow courier and now ex-girlfriend (Dania Ramirez) and him dealing with a rival courier (Wole Parks), but this is basically just an urban chase flick featuring two people (with a bike cop occasionally thrown in to slightly complicate matters).

Apparently realizing they need to flesh out the material to make things more interesting and give viewers the sporadic break from the chases, the filmmakers occasionally throw in some flashback scenes to explain who's who and what's what. It succeeds at that, and does provide a few alternate views (meaning different camera angles) of what we've already viewed, but I would have liked to have seen something perhaps a bit more imaginative with all of that.

Perhaps they were trying to avoid comparisons to the slightly similar but far better "Run Lola Run" and its trio of scenarios that start at the same point but then diverge. Or maybe they didn't want to follow in the footsteps of other films that show the same scene(s) from different perspectives (the old "Rashomon" tactic), thus giving the viewer something to chew on and ponder about which is right. Whatever the case, the various rewind moments here don't do much more than fill in some detail.

The filmmakers also include a few brief interludes showing the protagonist's imagined options of getting through various traffic scenarios confronting him, most of which involve him striking or being struck by other people or vehicles, almost always played for laughs due the outcome of those possibilities that the rider obviously opts not to take.

For the most part, though, this is simply a chase flick and the filmmakers do a decent job staging and executing those scenes, even if not all of them are as thrilling as they should be to carry a pic like this that doesn't have much else going for it.

That said, the photography alone is fun to watch as one ponders how they got all of those shots (and how many special effects, if any, were used to enhance the material). Performances are decent but otherwise unremarkable, with Gordon-Levitt making a sympathetic hero and Shannon an okay villain.

If you absolutely, positively are desirous of making a chase flick it absolutely, positively better be exciting in an edge of your bicycle (or otherwise) seat sort of way. "Premium Rush" only occasionally meets that criteria and thus rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed August 21, 2012 / Posted August 24, 2012


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