UNSUNG. It’s a new little series of ours where we bring to your attention the shit that doesn’t get talked about enough and deserves so much more credit. Whether it be movies, music, books, ANYTHING.
Today’s discussion: the ever-underrated Premium Rush.
This film, directed by David Koepp, stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Wilee, a law-student-turned-bike-messenger for a service in New York City. He takes a job just before finishing his shift one day to deliver an envelope from his friend Nima (Jamie Chung) to a Chinese laundry on the other side of town, no questions asked. However, corrupt police detective Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon) knows exactly how much the envelope is worth, and will stop at nothing to wreck Wilee and get his hands on the ticket to pay off his illegal gambling debts.
This film is fantastic. I saw it in theaters with my family and then again after it came out on DVD, and we all agree that it’s incredible. The storyline is presented out of order, but an on-screen digital clock keeps things from being confusing. Good thing, too, because shit moves FAST, and if you miss a second, you might lose the entire story. The bike action is over-the-top, stylish, and insane – jumps, spins, high-speed chases, you name it, they got it. There are some very cool moments where everything stops and Wilee sees all the possible routes he could take before choosing the one that causes the least damage – kind of a rip-off of Sherlock Holmes, sure, but it works a little better here (because as someone who rides a bike, I can tell you that that is actually kind of how I see things when I’m riding).
Despite its breakneck pace, Premium Rush benefits from keeping things simple. We have a hero with a clear goal and a villain with a clear motivation, set in the middle of insane NYC traffic. Chaos ensues. However, Gordon-Levitt’s and Shannon’s performances elevate things from generic to worth paying attention to – Wilee’s cocky and self-centered, but still a sympathetic character, while Monday is in deep, deep shit, but you still hate him. The supporting cast is excellent too – Wilee’s rival Manny, girlfriend Vanessa, and Nima are all excellent additions to the story, fleshing it out and widening the film’s scope without making it boring. The bit-player bike cop that’s always trying to catch Wilee makes for a great running gag and a hilarious additional character.
I’ve gotta give a special nod to the soundtrack, too – Premium Rush’s excellent score was composed by David Sardy. It’s a simple, bare-bones guitar, drums, bass, and synthesizer arrangement that keeps the mood light and gets stuck in your head (especially the main theme, I listen to that when I’M riding MY bike). There’s even a moment where the awesome noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells makes an appearance in a bar.
Basically, this movie doesn’t get enough credit. It’s fast-paced, funny, thrilling, and badass. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt being a lovable asshole. What more could you want?