Premium Rush follows Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a daredevil bike messenger working in the busy streets of New York City. One day he takes on a seemingly ordinary delivery of an envelope only to discover it’s far more dangerous than he thought, with a ruthless police officer (Michael Shannon), who has a special interest in the envelope, hunting him down.
Exploring this surprisingly fast-paced world with panache, the aptly named Premium Rush is a slick and fun movie which has a real handle on its action sequences, putting an inventive spin on the type of chase sequences that populate just about every Hollywood movie. Lead by a solid turn by man-of-the-minute Joseph Gordon-Levitt (an actor with the presence to carry lead roles as much as to shine in supporting ones) we also have a nice supporting cast including Dania Ramirez, Aasif Mandvi and Michael Shannon, the latter of which brings a weight to a role that otherwise might have been bland. It’s the type of twitchy crazed turn he has made a career of doing but is nonetheless fascinating to watch as always.
As it goes on it plays around with time, jumping back and forth via a clock which appears on-screen to fill in the plot blanks at key points. That “oh by the way, this happened” approach can occasionally threaten to get in the way, feeling almost like cheating in a way. Also the crime plot is a little on the thin and cliched side, plumbing familiar crime depths, but the film gets away with it because of how quickly it moves things along. It wastes little time getting to the point, keeping its eyes on the prize, so to speak, and fulfilling its purpose with great aplomb.
Under the direction of Hollywood mainstay David Koepp (writer of everything from Jurassic Park to Spider-Man to Ghost Town), the action sequences are spiced up with nice little visual touches including following a yellow line that shows Levitt’s route, and also allowing us a glimpse of his character’s thought process as he visualizes the various different outcomes that would occur if he took a certain direction through the traffic (i.e. how he can avoid crashing). It’s those sort of little extras which allow Premium Rush to stand out from the crowd.
Who knew the world of bike messaging could be so exciting? Premium Rush brings something new to the Hollywood action table in that respect, even if its otherwise crime-themed plot seems all too familiar. But what it lacks in originality of plot it more than makes up for with inventive chase sequences, an entertainingly brisk pace (with a similarly short running time to match) and enjoyable performances from Gordon-Levitt and Shannon. An efficient and effective action-thriller which does what it says on the tin.