It might be coming at the tail end of Hollywood’s biggest season, but the action thriller Premium Rush unequivocally holds even more thrills, laughs, and excitement than nearly every other film that came before it this summer. Next to The Raid: Redemption from earlier this year, there isn’t a better rush of pure, undistilled adrenaline.
NYC bike courier and law school flameout Wiley (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has been assigned to deliver a priority envelope across the city from uptown to Chinatown in 90 minutes or less, but his final task at the end of an already long day becomes complicated when a crooked detective (Michael Shannon) attempts to intercept the delivery for personal gain.
The premise couldn’t be simpler, but writer-director David Koepp (co-writer of Jurassic Park and Spider-man) puts the emphasis on making the most thrilling and enjoyable movie possible. It’s easily the best film ever made about reckless, renegade cyclists, but it’s also an incredibly playful and imaginative action film with a tongue in cheek, self aware script – that actually knows how to craft a time shifting narrative – in the vein of Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez. It works better than it has any right to.
Levitt finally gets to show off his skills in a leading role outside of indie films, exuding charm and charisma, but the movie really belongs to Shannon who has been waiting in the wings for ages for a breakout role in a major studio film. His performance balances wit and menace with a Nicolas Cage-like sense of becoming completely unhinged at times. It’s a brilliant role for an actor who has been chronically undervalued.
The cinematography and incredibly dangerous looking practical, non-CGI stunts are top notch. It also knows the geography of New York to a startlingly precise degree, and while the film doesn’t feel the need to stick to a “real time” concept every step of the way, it’s always finding ways to keep the film moving in a logical fashion without letting the audience breathe for a second.
This isn’t a film that demands to be taken seriously as high art, nor should it. It should be taken seriously as one of the best action films of the year, one of the best of the summer, and easily some of the most fun this year.
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Jamie Chung
Directed by: David Koepp
Top image: A scene from Premium Rush. Courtesy Sony Pictures.