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Chase picture provides intense plot, action scenes (VIDEO)

Bike messengers have it pretty rough. They race through red lights, swerve in and out of traffic and get dangerously close to hitting pedestrians. To make matters worse, they only get paid $80 a day.

One such bike messenger is Wilee (like the coyote), a daredevil played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Not only does Wilee deal with the dangers of being a bicycle courier, but he does it on a fixed gear bike with no brakes. As he puts it, “The worst stuff that ever happened to me, happened when I had brakes.”

Wilee is also the surprisingly likable protagonist in Premium Rush, an energetic chase movie that follows an incredibly stressful day in the life of the plucky bike messenger.

The day starts like any other, with a package that Wilee needs to take from one side of Manhattan to another within 90 minutes. The package in question is an envelope containing a gambling ticket that needs to be delivered to a mysterious woman who goes only by the name of Sister Chen. The purpose of this ticket doesn’t matter to Wilee. The only thing that truly matters to him is the $30 he’s going to receive if the package is delivered on time.

Unfortunately, a high-rolling police detective (Michael Shannon), needs the ticket to pay off a massive debt that he owes to a group of rather unsavory men. Early in the film, he makes an attempt to politely ask for the envelope, but, as Wilee says, “Once it’s in my hands, it’s in my hands until it gets where it going.” The desperate detective spends the rest of the movie doing everything he can to get the ticket, even if it means killing Wilee.

But that’s not all. A lot of the story takes place in flashbacks, explaining why the ticket is so important, as well as a past relationship that Wilee had with Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), a fellow bike messenger.

The nonlinear storytelling is just one of the many things that makes Premium Rush so much fun to watch. The way things end up tying together is a real treat to experience.

Another enjoyable aspect is the style of the film. Director David Koepp utilizes an onscreen clock, inventive use of maps and sweeping shots to create a positively energetic experience.

For a genre movie, the acting is surprisingly decent. Joseph-Gordon Levitt turns in a likable performance as Wilee; the cocky bravado with which he acts at the start of the movie is a great contrast to the desperate character he becomes towards the end.

Michael Shannon, however, steals every single scene that he appears in. As the desperate dirty cop, he transforms himself into the most terrifyingly goofy character I’ve seen in a long time. You really want this character to get what’s coming to him.

This isn’t a serious character drama, though, this is a chase picture, so the action scenes are really the stars of the show. And let me tell you, they give a knockout performance.

Wilee zips in and out of traffic, jumps over trash cans and dodges pedestrians, all while avoiding the evil presence of Michael Shannon. It gets a little ridiculous, but Koepp directs the action with such lightning fast precision that the film’s 91 minutes fly by.

Not all is right though. As good as the acting is, there are a few major slip ups, particularly with incidental characters. Also, there are some moments that are so serious and dark, that they betray the film’s light-hearted tone.

All together, though, Premium Rush is an incredibly fun, super entertaining movie that only occasionally loses it’s way. Despite the male-oriented premise, it’s a movie that really anybody can enjoy.

Premium Rush runs 91 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for some violence, intense action sequences and language. The film is running at most local theaters.

For more reviews, read the Aug. 23 article, ‘Paranorman’ brings unique detail to animation (VIDEO).

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    Tyler LairdAug 17, 2012 at 12:04 am

    Happy (belated) birthday, Mr. Fenton!