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Premium Rush


Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Wole Parks, Jamie Chung, Aasif Mandvi

Director: David Koepp

Director and co-writer (with John Kamps) and David Koepp perfectly understands the basic thrust of his compelling thriller which showcases ideally cast Gordon-Levitt as a college law student who switches studies for working as a bike messenger, hurtling at a break-neck, breath-taking pace through New York’s traffic clogged streets. The law’s loss is the moviegoer’s gain. Subtext (apart from the time honoured, time-tired American storyline about a crooked cop) is replaced by a cracking directorial pace which gains in impact and suspense by Koepp’s insertion of apt flashbacks and flash forwards to add dramatic depth and dimension to what is essentially a fast-moving chase movie.

The plot is simple – when Gordon-Levitt, who rides without gears or brakes, is hired to take a letter from Columbia University (his late alma mater) and deliver it to Chinatown, he ends up riding for his life pursued by corrupt Manhattan policeman Michael Shannon, who makes a memorable villain and one whose ultimate well-deserved takedown is sure to win audience approval.

Thanks to Koepp’s well-constructed storyline which manages to include romance without slowing down the action, the back-story, which involves illegal people-smuggling and dangerous gambling in Chinatown among other elements, and leads to Gordon-Levitt and Shannon’s potentially fatal confrontation, emerges bit by bit, adding dramatic force without diluting the suspense.

The stunt work that enables Gordon-Levitt and fellow bike messengers to weave scarily through traffic-jammed streets is brilliantly executed while vivid location shooting in New York gives the story a strong veneer of credibility that carries Gordon-Levitt and the plot triumphantly to the climax.
Which is not to say that Premium Rush is all action. Koepp and Kamps come up with neat characterization and some splendid lines. Gordon-Levitt aptly describes himself as a “Master of bullshit and obfuscation” while Shannon’s use of a fantasy film veteran’s name when he introduces himself as “Forrest J Ackerman, Dean of Students”, particularly appealed to me.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Sony. Colour by deluxe.
91 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 12 Sep 2012