Just as the so-called “movie brat” directors of the 70s often cite John Ford, Hitchcock, and Antonioni as some of their major influences, younger directors often reference the movie brats scene when asked about their own influences.
Even among giants like Scorsese, Malick, and Altman, one director seems to be talked about more than any other: Steven Spielberg. For many of these younger directors, we’re seeing Spielberg’s films not just as inspirations, but as templates from which one creates one’s own work.
I am not sure if I’m the only person who felt this way, but I had almost no interest in seeing this movie. An action movie almost entirely on bikes? I have to admit the idea didn’t exactly grab me as something that would be “cool”. But I am here to tell you that two people chasing each other on bikes can be pretty damn spectacular. Sure it’s a little ridiculous when you get right down to it, but Premium Rush walk the line between cheesy and badass pretty skillfully, only faltering when forced to provide a plot to justify all of that said badassery.
Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of New York’s best bike messengers, a profession that falls somewhere on the spectrum between adrenaline junkie and mailman. Things take a turn for the worst when Wilee discovers that a man named Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon) is after a package that he’s carrying, turning the movie into a high speed game of cat and mouse as Wilee rockets down New York city streets while trying to avoid Bobby and figure out why everyone seems to be after him. The plot isn’t anything that special, but in reality it doesn’t actually have that much of an impact on the movie. If you’re going to a movie called “Premium Rush” for some kind of plot driven intellectually stimulating film, then you’re probably making a poor decision.
Although overall I did like the movie, I will admit I didn’t care much for the acting. Michael Shannon’s character may have just been poorly written, but I just didn’t think he does that great of a job regardless of his tremendous acting abilities. Even Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the man who has supposed to anchor this film, was pretty hit or miss when you look at the film as a whole. To be quite honest this is in many ways a pretty silly film, and whenever it tried to take itself seriously, my level of entertainment definitely took a hit.
In many ways, the cycling was the only thing I really liked about this movie. However, this film had the good sense to realize this and jam-pack about every conceivable thing you could do with the concept in it’s slim 91 minute length. Bike races, bike and car chases, and a few thinly veiled excuses to pull off some very impressive tricks and stunts. Needless to say, it’s hugely entertaining, even for someone who doesn’t know or want to know anything about cycling.
Even with all of its flaws, I can comfortably say that this film is a success. Bike messengers may not be the most inherently fascinating subjects, but David Koepp does a commendable job of making it interesting and capturing the essence of what seems to be one of the craziest jobs in the world. I only wish they would let him direct the Tour De France.