MaxSpace

Premium Rush

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as America's first hipster-approved action hero.

By Max Weiss | August 25, 2012, 6:30 pm

MaxSpace

Premium Rush

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as America's first hipster-approved action hero.

By Max Weiss | August 25, 2012, 6:30 pm

Get Baltimore Daily.

Sign up today and you'll get our latest stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday afternoon.

True confession: I’m not a big fan of chase scenes. If there was an expression that was the opposite of “cut to the chase” (“cut to the nuanced character development”?) it would be my motto.

What’s more, I’ve gotten a little jaded about car chases. I no longer ask myself, “Whoa. How’d they pull that off?” I just kind yawn and think: Closed set, stuntmen, CGI. . . Next!

Which is why it’s all the more surprising—and impressive—that the chase scenes in Premium Rush (dumb title, smart film) were my favorite parts of the movie.

Actually, not just the chase scenes—all the scenes involving our hero Wiley (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) on his trusty bicycle. As Wiley bobbed and weaved through traffic, narrowly avoiding collisions, I was mesmerized—and yes, numerous times I asked myself, “How’d they do that?”

Wiley, if you haven’t already guessed, is a bike messenger in Manhattan—in other words, he’s nuts. But even among the gonzos of the NYC bike messenger ranks, Wiley is the craziest. His bike is stripped bare, he tore off his brakes years ago. He has a need for speed, as a certain movie maverick once said—and he thinks braking is the most dangerous thing a bike messenger can do.

In one of the film’s best conceits, Wiley uses his split-second reflexes and vision to assess the variables of any situation. He’s like a running back—if that running back had to negotiate New York City cabs. We see his thought process: If he goes one way, he runs over a baby carriage; if he goes another way, he gets slammed by a car door; but the third way, if he snakes through traffic just fast enough, he’ll emerge unscathed.

Because this is a movie about a bike messenger, we can already anticipate the plot: Wiley gets a package to deliver and suddenly finds himself in danger, shadowed by a threatening corrupt cop (Michael Shannon) and wanted by some sketchy figures in Chinatown's underworld. What’s in the package? And how is it related to the roommate of Wiley’s bike messenger girlfriend?

So much great stuff here. Twitchy, endlessly fascinating Shannon is never a bad idea as the villain and director David Koepp is smart enough to give the gloriously weird actor a couple of scenery chewing moments. There’s an amusing little B-plot involving an earnest bike cop—a real Dudley-Do-Right type— who keeps chasing down Wiley and coming up short. The only slightly draggy part (relatively speaking, mind you) involves Wiley’s rival (Wolé Parks), a jacked up fellow biker in spandex (Wiley’s more of a baggy cargo shorts and tee kinda guy himself). It felt a bit unnecessary. There’s also one suspend-your-disbelief moment, where Shannon’s cop has Wiley in his clutches and inexplicably lets him go. Oh well, no script is perfect.

Gordon-Levitt, as usual, just shines as Wiley. With his hair closely cropped, he looks like a moving bullet and he brings just the right amount of swagger and cocky charm to the role. And while he may not have performed all his stunts, he’s clearly extremely adept on that bike. Gotta love the skinny, smart, hipster-approved Gordon-Levitt. He’s America’s first indie action hero.




Meet The Author
Max Weiss is the managing editor of Baltimore and a film and pop culture critic.

You May Also Like

Arts & Culture

Writer Madison Smartt Bell Talks About New Book

The author and Goucher professor joins us to talk about his new book Behind the Moon.

Arts & Culture

Music Reviews: September 2017

The latest from J Pope and the HearNow and J. Roddy Walston and the Business.

Arts District

Ten Not-To-Miss Events At The Baltimore Book Festival

The three-day celebration of all things literary returns to the Inner Harbor this weekend


Arts District

Culture Club: BSO Pulse Lineup, Abdu Ali, Maryland Art Place

Our monthly roundup of openings, events, and news from the art world.

Arts & Culture

Watch This Tape

A Remington shop brings video back from the dead.

MaxSpace

Review: Landline

Jenny Slate shines in this warm, witty, and wise exploration of family and the ties that bind us

Connect With Us

Most Read


Fashion Sense
How designer and BSA alum Christian Siriano made a name for himself in the fashion world.

Head of the Class
Sonja Santelises is ready to lead Baltimore City Public Schools.

Shine-y, Happy People
Shine Creative’s Jamie Campbell and Drury Bynum share their entertaining secrets.

On a Dime
Five and Dime Ale House is worth the pocket change.

Cameo: Heidi Daniel
We talk to the new CEO and president of Enoch Pratt Free Library.