Sunday, December 23, 2012

Video review: "Premium Rush"

A zippy, looper thrill ride of a movie, "Premium Rush" overcomes its paper-thin premise to deliver an enjoyable and well-crafted piece of entertainment.

The plot is silly to the point of absurdity: A maverick bike messenger named Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is pursed all over New York City by a corrupt detective (Michael Shannon) who's after the documents he's transporting across town. Wilee may have a low-paying, no-respect job, but he takes it seriously and refuses to give in, even as the stakes are steadily ratcheted up into deadly territory.

"Once it goes in the bag, it stays in the bag," is his credo.

Director David Koepp, who also wrote the screenplay with John Kamps, shows a flair for action sequences as the bicycles weave perilously in and out of traffic that's constantly on the move. One of the coolest bits is Wilee's ability to analyze a situation and plot different outcomes on the fly. He's like the Rain Man of traffic patterns.

Shannon is both funny and frightening as the bad guy, a cop so underwater in gambling debts that lashes out like a man struggling for air. He's like a one-man circle of victimization, inflicting and receiving punishment in turn.
The really astonishing thing is that the cast and crew manage to engage us in this ridiculous potboiler on wheels, and actually care about the characters.

"Premium Rush" may not be a great film, but it goes to show that filmmakers can approach even the lightest material with devotion and come out ahead of the pack.

Alas, video extras are quite skimpy. They're limited to two making-of featurettes: "The Starting Line -- Meet The Cast" and "Behind The Wheels -- Featurette on the Action, Stunts and Chases."

Movie: 3 stars out of four
Extras: 1.5 stars

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