“Premium Rush” is a movie my sons would’ve loved when they were 11 or 12. The movie is kinetic. It rarely stops moving. And some of the bike stunts are really cool. The title refers to the priority delivery status of a package, but it can also describe the adrenaline flow the movie sets off.
The film has hip younger characters, bumbling older characters, a friendly rivalry, a hint of romance, a bit of mystery, several chuckles and danger on many fronts. (Its rating is PG-13.)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a bicycle courier in Manhattan. He does all the things that give some urban cyclists a bad rep: running red lights, riding between lanes of auto traffic, riding against the flow of traffic, taking to the sidewalk when the road is clogged, etc. He has no gears and no brakes on his bike.
The story revolves around one important delivery that has to go from Columbia Law School to Chinatown during afternoon rush hour. Michael Shannon is a crooked NYPD detective who wants to intercept the package, in order to pay off a gambling debt. “The Daily Show’s” Aasif Mandvi is the courier service’s dispatcher.
From the excellent opening shot, which shows Gordon-Levitt floating through the air in slow motion, director David Koepp takes us back a few hours to set everything up. He picks up from that slo-mo float to get us to the climax. The out-of-sequence storytelling works well.
If you’ve ever driven in Manhattan, you may have experienced bicyclists darting in and out amongst heavy traffic. “Premium Rush” depicts that reckless behavior with multiple shots of the bike riders in precarious situations on crowded streets. Gordon-Levitt’s risky riding is further revealed via many POV shots. One effective technique shows him speculating—in a split second—his chances of success among several options for getting through a congested intersection.
Will those over the ages of 11 and 12 like “Premium Rush?” I think yes. The action blends well with the storytelling. As a bike rider who prefers the Katy Trail, the idea of racing through the streets of NYC is frightening. But the vicarious thrill I get from this movie is a rush.