Wilee is one of 1,500 bike couriers in Manhattan who rides on the edge by having a bike with no brakes. On this day, Wilee has a delivery that is so valuable that a corrupt NYC Detective, who needs the money, begins to chase Wilee throughout the city to get it before the envelope is delivered. Written by
Douglas Young (the-movie-guy)
The character of Sister Chen is very likely loosely based on Cheng Chui Ping, aka Sister Ping, who was a notorious smuggling gang leader from 1984 to 2000. See more »
When he is chased on Broadway after picking up the package he is crossing southbound by 139th street going to 125th when he is supposed to be biking south of 116th street. See more »
I can't work in an office. I don't like wearing suits. I like to ride. Fixed gear, steel frame, no brakes. The bike cannot coast. The pedals never stop turning. Can't stop. Don't want to either. There are 1,500 bike messengers on the streets of New York City. You can e-mail it, FedEx it, fax it, scan it, but when none of that shit works and this thing has to be at that place by this time, you need us.
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In the credits, footage of the aftermath of an actual bike accident Joseph Gordon-Levitt had on the streets of New York City during filming is shown, including Gordon-Levitt showing off his injury. See more »
How to (possibly psychotically) navigate NYC streets - and Michael Shannon's gaze
Premium Rush is a commercial film that sticks to being a 'B' movie with some A-movie assets - chiefly the actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon as the hero and opposition - and David Koepp does a very good job balancing those elements. It could have been just a straight to video title, but it's smart about being a little movie (that is, not quite as on the radar as a big summer tentpole), and has a script that can hold its story and juggle a few elements with more than just competency, that you can go for the ride without being insulted. And yes, it isn't just hyperbole saying it's a 'ride'; here, as in some TV shows (only here with better visual intentions than just quick- adrenaline-fixes), we see with big visual effects the scenarios our hero Wiley (yes, perhaps ironically named as he is really the Roadrunner) navigates the streets, his main route, and then when he's at a cross- walk and cars coming on all sides which of three paths he could take and if he'll die or not or kill others.
Sure, most of us (those of us walking or driving in a city, such as New York) don't like bike messengers, but it's in abstract or in the all-too personal. Koepp's cleverness is to look at a bike messenger on the street and go 'hmm, how about a movie about him and what he has to do, and then what if we throw in a crooked cop and a mob element and a woman wanting to reunite with her kid?' A lot of these elements on their own (and perhaps still the woman with the kid) could be under-cooked or just not very interesting. Altogether, they amount to something, rather that the elements can connect through Michael Shannon's cop Detective Monday (or "Officer Ackerman") who sets a lot of this into motion through his comically inept gambling addiction and inability to get money together - or a ticket from a bike messenger.
Some of this may just seem like 'screenwriting 101', with pieces like the woman with the son and the hero's conflicts (love interest, side- opponent in another bike messenger, the latter I didn't care for as it was too weak on its own and in the movie), but hey, in a first-level class there can be good work done! It's not even a 'turn off your brain' kind of suspense thriller either; Koepp has enough experience to inject, along with his co-writer, really funny or witty dialog, solid (albeit 'movie') character dynamics as people ride on their bikes and can speak on their blue-tooth phones. It's so good when watching the actors bicycling along, and some stunt doubles but who knows when they really use them it's so well integrated, it almost slows the movie down when they have to stop to fill in the spots of the story's quasi- MacGuffin object in the envelope.
But mostly, it's the acting that carries it through. Gordon-Levitt is an appealing lead, likable but has a tough attitude when he needs to, and of course you got to go with him. But without Shannon, frankly, I don't know if the movie would have been as successful, at least to the level it's at now. He's such a convincingly kooky-looking villain, brutal, nasty, but cartoonish in a big way (listen to his laugh, or chuckle, and it's a touch of Chucky the doll or something!) Even in a supposedly marginal Hollywood thrill-ride, Shannon brings his A-game.
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