Risking their lives literally every second they’re on the streets, New York City bike messengers make what they do look easy, however “easy” isn’t exactly in their job description. Depicting a fateful day in the life of one of said professionals, David Koepp’s Premium Rush focuses on could-be lawyer-turned-adrenaline junkie Wilee as the wrong package falls into his trusty satchel at the wrong time. Skillfully evading sociopath NYPD detective Bobby Monday utilizing his (very) specific skill set, Wilee’s inevitable search for answers sends him on a wild goose chase across Manhattan at a clip comparable to the speeds he achieves on this fixed-gear bicycle.
Aside from wonderfully mimicking the pace at which these individuals operate on a regular basis, writer-director Koepp knows exactly what he’s dealing with as the proceedings remain amiably tongue-in-cheek from start to finish. Bouncing back and forth along a narrow timeline to shed light on details we’re in need of in order to thoroughly enjoy a film as shallow as this, everything’s involving enough to overshadow the slight trip-ups that go hand-in-hand with a predicament as ludicrous as Wilee’s. From a requisite amount of action to an agreeably menacing villain-type, Premium Rush eventually evolves into a competent hybridization of self-aware and something a bit more dire as Detective Monday’s quest to squash a gambling debt threatens to destroy him.
This in mind, Michael Shannon’s frequently mesmerizing efforts benchmark the production as his eerily convincing turn as the aforementioned loose cannon brings a bit more three-dimensionality to the film at regular intervals, remaining far-and-away the only dynamic character Premium Rush has to offer despite frequent jabs at mild characterization. Joseph Gordon-Levitt brings an ample amount of charisma to the table as Wilee to help further expand his recently glowing resume, however he and Shannon are the only high points to be found within the film’s casting choices, and for good reason.
As long as you take it at face value, Premium Rush is a tense, adrenaline-infused love letter to the profession and city at its core, transforming a particularly thin premise into something highly entertaining. Fantastic performances permeate the proceedings as events unfold at an appropriate pace, bouncing back and forth between key events with surprising finesse. If you’re looking for something to sate your appetite for one last end-of-summer actioner, you could certainly do a lot worse than David Koepp’s refreshing, technically savvy effort.