Premium Rush’s attempt at capturing the fast-paced world of a New York City bike messenger isn’t heart-pumping, or engaging. The film stars Joesph Gordon-Levitt as Wilee, a former law student who scoffs at the ideal of a three-piece suit and desk—something the film repeatedly knocks over our head. Rather than rot away in an office, Wilee opts to become a bike messenger. He’s such a thrill-seeker that he refuses to put brakes on his bike and taunts his fellow messengers for not doing the same (because they’re the crazy ones). Wilee’s cliché notion about the real world and the dreaded 9 to 5 is only part of the reason why this film is forgettable. In fact, Wilee isn’t the most unlikeable character in the film. That honor belongs to Michael Shannon’s Bobby Monday.
Shannon first earned acclaim in Revolutionary Road as Kathy Bates’ disturbed son. While he only had a supporting role in the film, he managed to outshine its leads, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Unfortunately, Shannon’s role as a crooked cop with a gambling addiction can only hurt his credibility. Detective Monday’s menacing demeanor is laughable. Premium Rush tries to portray him as an immoral tyrant, but Shannon is unable to make the character seem realistic.
The supporting cast does little to improve the film’s enjoyment factor, particularly its humor. There were a few moments in the film where I laughed out loud, but I’m not sure if laughter was the desired reaction. In the movie there’s a scene where Levitt’s Wilee is positing outcomes for three different routes, all of which result in him violently crashing into a taxicab. While this scene provided the most humor, I’m not sure if that was its purpose.
This brings me the part of the film that was most problematic for me. I genuinely did not feel any emotions the film tried to convey. Rather just the opposite. For instance, I know that I’m supposed to feel apathetic towards Wilee’s plight, but I was so annoyed at how often it was brought up by him or the other characters that by the end of the moving the only satisfaction I could have felt was to see him sitting in a cubicle staring at a clock (this did not happen … unfortunately).
Even the film’s main plot point and catalyst for the countless chase scenes failed to stir up any true emotions in me, possibly because I was too busy rolling my eyes at the idea that something so important would be put into the hands of a NYC bike messenger.
I’d also like to take note of the film’s storytelling techniques. With the use of a smartphone, we’re constantly shown the distance between Wilee and the package’s destination. This works for the first half of the film, as it reiterates that the clock is ticking. Halfway through the film, however, it becomes a distraction.
Premium Rush’s problem is that it tries to hard to be so many things: entertaining, heart wrenching and funny. While this combination works in other films, it doesn’t come to fruition in Premium Rush.