Rapidly paced film that feels like it develops in real-time, David Koepp's Premium Rush sends biking messengers about downtown in breakneck speed in this gripping action thriller. Dynamically edited with stylised graphical overlays and transitions, the feeling of a bicycle breeze is well re-enacted through the amazing tempo and the unbelievable 90 minutes stamina of the film's plot.
Dodging speeding cars, crazed cabbies, open doors, and eight million cranky pedestrians is all in a day's work for Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the best of New York's agile and aggressive bicycle messengers. It takes a special breed to ride the fixie - super lightweight, single-gear bikes with no brakes and riders who are equal part skilled cyclists and suicidal nutcases who risk becoming a smear on the pavement every time they head into traffic. But a guy who's used to putting his life on the line is about to get more than even he is used to when a routine delivery turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan. When Wilee picks up his last envelope of the day on a premium rush run, he discovers this package is different. This time, someone is actually trying to kill him.
Premium Rush highly depends upon the sports to incite the otherwise weary genre of action thrillers. Typically involving chases and escapes led by serious crime and disaster, the film takes a more amiable approach with healthy film material - speed cycling. Enthusiast of the sport may already be drawn to the film without much further opinion justification.
It is as simple as the sport, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a highly passionate biking messenger who embraces speed comfortably with ease and confidence. He is the best in what he does albeit firmly believing in a "no-brakes" policy towards speed cycling. In the pragmatic world, while speeding is something that one might easily perform out of curiosity and freewill (be it for the sense of liberty or the thrills of breaking regulations), braking is something of a natural instinct whenever one faces an imminent threat of danger.
The feeling of speed is well evoked through interesting film techniques through inspiring camera perspective angles, quick editing, and the graphical overlaying visuals that act like info-graphics to render split-second critical thinking and decision making. Because of the way the film is executed, it almost feels like the film is taking place in real time (time is constantly re-emphasised in the film to further induce time urgency, akin to the popular hit television series 24).
Gordon-Levitt does fine and feels apt as the sporty professional who enjoys negotiating through the bustling urban cityscape on his small profiled bicycle. This allows him to break away from his other major studio roles to revitalise over a light action thriller for some fun and exercise. He definitely looks like he's enjoying it, especially with the raw footage depicting his on set injury that is revealed at the end of the film.
Physically toned and actively demeanoured, Dania Ramirez doesn't impress as co-biking messenger Vanessa. Instead it is the unassuming academic researcher Nima played by Jamie Chung whose low profile performance is apt for her meager character who is desperately trying to get her family over to New York city. Not forgetting the edgy (but at the same time not dangerously over the top) NYPD detective Bobby (Michael Shannon) who gives Gordon-Levitt a good challenge throughout the film.
Besides the above mentioned excellence, it unfortunately feels like yet another genre exercise albeit with cycling as a core film material source of inspiration. But in the hands of Koepp and his team, the film turns out to be an enjoyable breeze throughout.