Watching the trailer for “Premium Rush” was very odd on two levels. I thought “Why did they make a movie about bicycle riding in New York?” and then I thought “Why with all that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon have going for them, would they willingly sign on for this?” My only conclusion was that there is obviously more to it than the trailer is showing. Maybe they do this whole thing in a unique, groundbreaking way. Nope. It’s a movie about bicycle messengers in New York.
Wylie (A failed attempt at a unique name) is a bike messenger in New York who is the best of his trade. He rides with no brakes and has almost a sixth sense when it comes to riding dangerously through New York traffic putting not only his life, but drivers lives at stake in the process (The film overlooks that part of it by the way). He gets a package to be delivered to Chinatown and it happens to be a package that Bobby (Shannon) wants for his own devious purposes and will stop at nothing to get it as he chases Wylie through the streets of New York.
It’s really hard imagining this movie being made and getting a wide release if not for Levitt and Shannon signing on. Levitt seems to be a go to guy for Hollywood right now and rightfully so as both he and Shannon have proved time and time again to be worthy actors who may be in or nearing the prime of their acting careers. That leaves the biggest question. Why? I could imagine 1,000 different scenarios and movies that would be more interesting ways to use their talents. Especially the two of them on screen together. Levitt is completely wasted in this film as almost anyone could have played his part cycling through traffic and snickering. It’s not his fault but his character was completely one sided. He’s a really gutsy bike messenger bordering on reckless. That’s about all there is to him. Shannon was the most interesting of the film even though he’s been accused of maybe going over the top. The script offered no help whatsoever and you could see the guy basically reaching for anything possible to make that character work. I think he went over the top out of necessity rather than choice and if nothing else he made it interesting.
The action is supposed to be this films saving grace but the action ceases to be entertaining twenty minutes into the film. It’s not that the movie did a terrible job portraying the underground world of bike messengers in an interesting way. As a matter of fact they did a great job attempting to make the action as engrossing as possible with a few neat little gimmicks here and there but at the end of the day it’s a guy on a bicycle. It’s just not enough for a movie, especially a movie that is supposed to be packed with adrenaline. At one point, toward the end of the film we are supposed to be on the edge of our seats as two rival messengers finally face off and race their bikes. Call me spoiled but bike races don’t exactly put me on the edge of my seat. I guess I should have realized there wasn’t more to this movie than the trailer offered up. If the trailer interested you or you have a specific interest in biking then by all means you may love this film but for those of us who saw the trailer and thought “Why?” will likely leave the theater with the same thought. 5/10