Get ready for this rock ’em sock ’em thrill ride on two wheels. What could be more appropriate for Willing Wheeling’s first post than Premium Rush, the Joseph Gordon-Levitt outing as a bike messenger supreme. I loved this film.
There are a lot of neat elements. First time director David Koepp rivets us to our seats with the almost non-stop biking action on New York’s savage streets. He did a kickass job on the action elements with some tight street level shots of the bikes in motion. It tracks, though. Unlike a lot of action films that get caught up in the action for its own sake. All the activity fits and furthers the story. Very nice use of the GPS as a tool for the messengers and also for shooting out a map for the audience to see and understand the context of the riding. Koepp has first rate screen writing credits including Jurassic Park, Spiderman and Panic Room.
So, what about the story? It involves JGL in the role of Wilee ( as in Wiley Coyote, beep beep, although ironically he is being chased, not chasing) three time winner of the best bike messenger award. He used to do trick riding, but now confines himself to his fixed gear single speed bike with no brakes, a true wheelman. But, that explains some of his cool moves later.
Wilee and Vanessa
His hot ex-gf, Vanessa, played by Dania Ramirez, also delivers the goods on two wheels. Their issue though is that Wilee quit law school to ride his bike while Vanessa is working on the bike to get a straight job and leave bike messengering. They have split up because he blew off her school program for a bike race.
The plot gets interesting quickly and mysteriously. Koepp here gets credit for his non-linear delivery. You have probably seen the trailer on TV which shows Wilee being chased on his bike and screaming into the phone about ‘what was in that package?’
Koepp fills us in with a number of flashbacks that work wonderfully for my money. They reminded me of Tarantino’s use of them in Pulp Fiction.
A very clever cop with a gambling problem played by Michael Shannon provides the dark side of the story. He wants the message the Wilee has contracted to deliver. Wilee, of course, refuses to give it up. So, we have an establishment cop for a heavy pitted against a rebel bike messenger who plays by the rules.
And the fun begins with the first of many chases.
It’s fascinating to me that the bike messenger world is an outside-the-establishment scene. The writing is so good that you don’t know if this is just good-guy vs bad-guy, or really an anti-establishment story. As authoritarianism has flourished in the last few years in this country, the idea of authority figures being evil is a very understandable artistic response.
Watch this super little Premium Rush Training video on You Tube.
Not incidentally, I loved the James Cameron TV series Dark Angel with Jessica Alba as a bike messenger. There is a slight reminiscence of that off the grid camaraderie here, too.
I always liked JGL in Third Rock From the Sun also on TV.
I recommend Premium Rush highly. It will definitely make you want to get out andride your bike – just not through New York traffic.
I can’t wait for the DVD (out Dec 21, 2012). I hope it will have explanations of some of the trick bike riding.