Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Premium Rush

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Premium Rush – 4 out of 5

I don’t live in New York. I don’t know much about bike messaging or what it entails. In fact, I don’t know much about bikes in general. All I know is that those things shouldn’t be able to remain balanced (I’m guessing dark magic is involved there) and when I used to ride one to work on a daily basis, my butt and testicle region would fall asleep from the painfully uncomfortable seat. Now that I’ve disturbed you with discussion about my nether regions let’s talk about Premium Rush.

First Person Biking action!!!

Despite the title, the film isn’t about some amazing quality cocaine but rather a bike messenger in New York who finds himself in a pickle—and not one of those delicious kosher dill pickles but a pickle that can get you killed. Wilee (who’s not a coyote despite his name) played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a hotshot bike messenger—how much of a hotshot? He rides a fixed gear bike with no breaks…which, being that I know nothing about cycling, I assume means he’s a badass. Wilee has a hotheaded reputation from his company and is in some deep water with his girlfriend and fellow bike messenger Vanessa (Dania Ramirez). He also has to compete with the Cole Train of bike delivery boys; Manny (Wole Parks), who’s out to prove he’s better than Wilee and wants to park his bike in Vanessa’s rack. Wilee gets commissioned for a delivery of a Super-Mega-Ultra important envelope that needs to be delivered and, in theory, should be an easy run but he suddenly finds himself hunted by an obsessed cop with a gambling problem who wants the mysterious envelope and is possibly related to Officer Friday; Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon).

If this still was a meme it would read:  "Still a better love story than Twilight."

For some reason, I had it in my head that this was a dark thriller about a young bike messenger being chased by an insane cop out to murder him—think Joy Ride only instead of a trucker you got a bike and instead of Leelee Sobieski’s incredible rack you got Joseph Gordon-Levitt (which isn’t that bad of an exchange when you factor in the glorious lack of Paul Walker to the equation)—instead, the film is a quirky action adventure…that still involves bike messengers and an insane cop out to do some bodily harm (and less killing).

Okay...maybe some killing because that's clearly murder in his eyes.

Going into the film, I had no real preconceived notions on whether I would enjoy or boo the film. I walked in completely and totally neutral…despite the fact I, for some reason, thought it was going to be a strange horror film that’s plot sounded like something that would come directly to DVD. When it was all over, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the film and how fun it was to watch.

His expression has soften to whimsical wonder.

Despite my lack of usage and lack of understanding of the physics of bikes (I still think black magic is involved in those things) I found myself getting into the movie even though bikes, bike messaging and JGL’s killer calves are things I don’t really have an invested interest in…well, maybe Gordon-Levitt’s calves. Seriously, those calves looked amazing!

Seriously, great calves.

Alright, so the story was interesting and the elements of the importance of the envelope that “just has to get there” really cement a simple but entertaining film but what about the rest of the movie? Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the star, so already you don’t have to worry about a great performance. That shit is guaranteed with JGL and he delivers and makes the character of Wilee a charming loose-canon bike messenger (Is there a bike messaging Captain who thinks some bike messengers are too wild and demand their badge and guns or the commissioner will have their asses in a sling?). 

"Anyone else smell piss?  Oh yeah, it's New York."

With those teeth, it's hard for him to NOT chew
Some of the supporting cast can be lackluster or annoying but not to the point it ruins the film—as you can tell from my score. Sure Dania Ramirez looks hot with glistening sweat on her body as she pumps the pedals on her ten-speed but her performance is so flavorless that she’s just adequate in her role. Then you have the annoying Wole Parks as Manny hamming it up like it’s a community college production of Little Shop of Horrors (I’m not familiar with stage performances and can’t think of any bike-based plays so I fell back on one of the few I know…was there a Broadway performance of Breaking Away?) And then you have Daily Show correspondent and part-time actor who will literally take any role for a paycheck; Aasif Mandvi, diving into the endless pit of stock characters as the wise-talking, super-busy and only half paying attention to your problems with your job boss of the delivery service; Raj. His performance is so laughably generic and “by-the-numbers” that a solid case could be made that he bought a book called Stock Characters for Dummies.

"Ha, I'm the super-busy, sassy boss/receptionist who is doing a million things at once
and thinks he's super cool for doing so!"

However, Mandvi’s caricature aside, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance is mirrored by the corrupt and gambling-hungry cop; Bobby Monday, thanks to Michael Shannon—General Zod himself. Shannon’s performance as the foolish cop is extremely entertaining as he balances being a dirty cop and inept human being with a fantastic New York accent. Monday is indeed a villain in this film but the film never oversteps the boundaries and makes Monday the “shoot first and I’ll hide the body immediately” corrupt cop. He’s just a dude who loves to gamble…and he’s really shitty at it and he’s desperate to work off his debt WITHOUT his legs getting broken. Sure, Monday gets in deeper as his pride and arrogance gets him in more trouble with his debtors but being a well-written character and having Shannon go against the grain and play him as a more lively individual rather than a gritty, dark and growling cop that we usually see in corrupt cops made the character addicting to watch and made me wish to see him in more scenes in the film. In fact, Shannon seemed so desperate to play this movie in a way that is so drastically different than your usual corrupt cop that he opts out of the formulaic Sam Worthington growl-voice and went with a higher pitch tone with a thick New York accent that ended up making him slightly comical but, paradoxically, more realistic.

"'re not going to kneel?"

Even the plot is unfolded in a slick way…so slick a bike messenger would slip on it like a banana peel in Mario Kart (yep, that was a bad joke, I’m aware of it). Creative editing (or pretentious techy editing depending on what side of the fence you’re on aka how long you’ve been working on your film degree while working at Starbucks) moves the film along and illustrates how Wilee operates on his bike. At this point you’re asking yourself what the hell I’m talking about. I don’t know if you know this or not but patience is a virtue and I would have got to the point where I expand on my statement but you had to jump the gun and start asking questions.

Also the story has its own built-in GPS.

Even though I know nothing about the world of bike messaging, it’s easy to assume that it’s dangerous as hell. New York has a lot of cars and a lot more people (and don’t forget about the apparent fact that the entire city is made of an apple), so the ingredients for an accident is very real and is there at all times—even when the bike is stopped, there is no shortage of possible falling anvils and pianos (of course, that’s expected when your name is Wilee). Wilee explains this in the opening of the film but the movie is clever to show off his decision making skills: When Wilee is trying to outrun a bike cop or a bad gambling cop (cops don’t really like him) he is faced with situations for possible escape and we see how each play out in his head and whether they result in success (not dying) or failure (dying). 

Shown:  Failure.

Does Premium Rush make me want to buy a Schwinn complete with baseball cards in the spokes, streamers on the handlebars and a flowered basket, move out to New York and become a bike messenger? Fuck no because that would involve riding a bike and I already explained why I don’t enjoy that (if you’ve forgotten my reason, remember that it involved my balls). Hell, E.T. couldn’t get me to want a bike and that bike came equipped with a penis-looking alien with a glowing finger, a love of candy and could make the bike fly. However, thanks to a fun story and killer performances from Batman and General Zod, Premium Rush succeeds in delivering a great movie. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to walk into traffic for ending my review with a bad pun.

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