Hurry hurry biker come to me ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hurry hurry biker come to me

Premium Rush
My rating:

This movie owes a lot to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and I mean a lot. It was filmed two years ago and had its release delayed (due to a copyright infringement lawsuit), and may not have even gotten into theatres if its lead actor hadn't broken out in Inception and The Dark Knight Rises since then. Gordon-Levitt is also responsible for this review you're reading right now, because he's the only reason I decided to watch this. I no longer review a new release every week, and this movie looked insignificant enough that I could skip it. Although I might've made an exception for David Koepp, who's on writing and directing duty. As one of Hollywood's highest-paid screenwriters, anything Koepp does in which he actually gets to hold the reins should be interesting; case in point, 1999's Stir of Echoes, a pretty good supernatural thriller unfairly overshadowed by The Sixth Sense.

Turns out this is much more a David Koepp movie - and possibly a Michael Shannon one - than a Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie.

Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is New York City's best bike messenger, and probably also its most reckless - which puts a strain on his relationship with fellow messenger Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) and gives an opening to his romantic rival Manny (Wolé Parks). One day, his dispatcher Raj (Aasif Mandvi) assigns him to a package from Vanessa's roommate Nima (Jamie Chung) - but then he is accosted by police detective Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon) who tries to take it from him. The package is actually a ticket worth a great deal of money, that Nima intends to use to bring her son to the States from China, but Monday needs it to pay off his gambling debts. So begins a massive chase across the city between Monday and Wilee that will also involve Vanessa, Manny, one hapless bicycle cop (Christopher Place), and the entire NYC bike courier industry.

TMBF is not the kind of movie buff that follows actors. What I look for in a film is story more than anything else, and that's why screenwriters and directors come first in my list of People Whose Films I Choose to Look Out For (Or Alternatively, to Avoid). So when I say that the fact that Gordon-Levitt is in this movie is the only reason I decided to watch it, it isn't because I love watching him so much that I gotta catch everything he's in - although of course, his performances are always good if not great. It's because in the past few years, he's shown that rare ability to pick projects that always turn out to be good films; yes, even G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. And it's rare because it's pretty damn hard to tell how good a movie will turn out when all you have is a screenplay and a director giving you the spiel about how good it'll turn out.

But if that director is David Koepp, then you're at least guaranteed that the screenplay will be a solid piece of genre writing. His filmography as writer includes some very big blockbusters, none of which are truly representative of his writing; the bigger the movie, the bigger the names attached to it (i.e. director and star), the more the script will be altered and revised - with or without the writer's involvement. So I tend to look out for movies by writers-turned-directors, because they will invariably be as gleeful as a kid in a candy store to finally have full creative control. (Well, sort of, there's still the studio to please, but if it's willing to greenlight a project directed by a screenwriter, then it's most likely willing to be hands-off on a movie that they also don't expect to be a big hit anyway.) And Koepp's glee is pretty darn evident in Premium Rush.

Okay, okay, let's get to the movie finally. It's an action thriller that's a lot more light-hearted and fun than most movies that fall under that genre. AV Club's Scott Tobias describes it as a live-action cartoon in which our hero Wilee is more the Roadrunner, and everyone who tries to apprehend or catch up to him, the coyote. This is not at all an inaccurate depiction of the movie, in fact it's probably the best frame of reference to have while watching it. Koepp is having a grand old time with twists, turns, reversals, all the tricks of the thriller trade to keep you on the edge of your seat. He even toys with chronology, with a non-linear timeline that starts somewhere around 5.30pm (and the ticket needs to reach its destination by 7pm) but has a tendency to rewind to earlier in the day and fill in a little backstory - e.g. exactly what kind of trouble Monday got himself into to need so much money so desperately.

And there are also bits where Wilee makes split-second decisions on which way to weave around traffic, and we see the disastrous outcomes of the wrong decisions; go left and he crashes into a baby carriage, go right and a guy gets run over by a truck with a hilarious Wilhelm scream. The movie's playful tone is also accentuated by a gloriously over-the-top performance by Michael Shannon, playing a villain who has no redeeming qualities whatsoever and knows it damn well. Shannon actually outshines Gordon-Levitt here, whose role doesn't challenge him beyond providing a solidly charismatic and likeable hero for the audience to root for. Unfortunately, the cast has a weak link in Jamie Chung, who can only frown prettily for almost the entire movie. And in the Chinatown scenes when the dialogue switches to Mandarin, her lack of proficiency in the language is apparent.

But as good as it is, it appears to be a confirmed box-office flop. Sigh... I guess "biker action thriller" doesn't pull in the crowds, even with Gordon-Levitt's name attached. However, I think it's destined to be one of those films that only finds an audience on DVD and screenings on HBO, prompting people to ask "why have I never heard of this movie?" and "why did nobody watch it when it was released in theatres?" I haven't even mentioned the chase scenes, of which there are plenty and are plenty exciting - or the minor antagonist in the nameless bike cop who also tries to apprehend Wilee and fails as spectacularly as Monday. Seriously, this movie is just a heap o' fun. Watch it if you can - when it shows up on HBO.

NEXT REVIEW: 29 Februari
Expectations: hmm, premis yang menarik


fadz said...

i like it when u review back the reviews made by film critics.

and yes, i enjoyed the movie too tremendously!

kitt said...

the movie pace is so pumping-fast that i find myself in the saloon afterwards.
doing wilee-styled::

son of the land said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, which a part of the reason is because I'm a cyclist and I can totally relate to the bike messengers... :)
Although, I find the flashbacks a little distracting and gimmicky, but didn't really spoil much of the fun.

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