Premium Rush

Aug 24, 2012

Biking in New York City has never been this much fun.

Premium Rush
Grade: B
Director: David Koepp (Secret Window)
Screenplay: Koepp (Mission Impossible), John Kamps (Ghost Town)
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Dark Knight Rises), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 91 min.
by John DeSando

“Goin’ down Broadway at 50 with no brakes. … What could be better than that?” Wilee

Like a midnight piece of New York pizza, Premium Rush is a 91 minute delight (or rush, if you will) that afterwards makes you wonder about the nutritional value or artistic heft, if you will. This action thriller stars bikes that careen through some of the world’s worst traffic, and oh, yes, the cyclist-messengers who deliver packages, and sometimes get hurt in the race with time.

Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a law school dropout, is the premiere courier, weaving and bobbing like a jackrabbit on his non-braked, one speed fixie, as he evades a corrupt cop, Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon, channeling humorously Christopher Walken), who wants the valuable chit Wilee is delivering to Chinatown for his friend, Nima (Jamie Chung).  Different from the cartoon Wile E. Coyote, this time the coyote is the hunted one.

Great films like Bullitt, French Connection, and more recently Drive, feature memorable chases but have central characters worth watching, characters of depth.  As charming as Wilee is, he’s just an elusive guy who can ride a steel-framed bike with a fixed gear and no brakes. He has some romance going on with a fellow biker, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), but that relationship better serves the thin plot than it does character development.

Although I couldn’t spy too much of the usual CGI enhancement, the great speed of the cycles is not believable, nor are the numerous near misses with cars and cabs. But most of the time real stunt riders do the work, and when Wilee sweats ascending a Central Park hill, the reality is palpable.

His GPS process is cleverly enhanced on screen with Google-map style shots showing Wilee’s path and the alternate scenarios in his mind as he figures which route to take, lending humor and groans as would be expected in the Road Runner.  Even Monday, a not terribly bright corrupt cop, can be amusing in his frustration to catch Wilee.

Overall Premium Rush is an entertaining “B” movie that will make more interesting your next trip to New York as you watch the couriers wending their way through the maze that is the greatest city in America. As they say, don’t try it in your own town.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at
He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel
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