Thursday, November 7, 2013

FI: Premium Rush

Premium Rush
US, 2012
Directed and co-written (w/ John Camps) by David Koepp

Of all of the films I've watched this year, Premium Rush might be the one that surprised me most in terms of sheer enjoyment. The pleasure of watching the smart-ass, speed-obsessed bike messenger Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) take on Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), a cartoonish crooked cop with "impulse control issues," caught me off guard. Not every aspect of the movie works perfectly, and it's certainly not a weighty, important "masterpiece" by any stretch of anybody's imagination. It's a sort of throwback B-movie with all of the efficiency, economy, and action found in those pictures. But, all of that aside, it's also one thing that too few movies are these days: Fun.

David Koepp and John Camps's non-linear script jumps back and forth through time over one afternoon, viewed from the perspectives of several characters. The central story, however, is that Wilee has a 90-minute window in which to deliver an important envelope for Nima (Jamie Chung), his erstwhile girlfriend Vanessa's (Dania Ramirez) soon-to-be former roommate. Monday, on the other hand, is attempting to take this envelope for himself, because it is apparently worth enough money to clear his debt with the underground pai gow parlors he frequents. Vanessa is vacating Nima's apartment against her will, and navigating a rough patch with Wilee by considering his fit co-worker/rival Manny (Wolé Parks). As a result, numerous bike chases ensue, including one car-vs.-bike set piece that's a clear homage to The French Connection's famous car chase. Impressive stuntwork blends seamlessly with CGI to create these realistic-feeling, excitingly shot sequences that take us zooming through New York City traffic at a breakneck pace. Ongoing gimmicks like a GPS/route finder–style map, an on-screen clock, and Wilee's "bullet time"–like visualizations of the consequences of potential routes add modern twists to the film while also helping keep continuity between the time/perspective shifts and biking action.

The best thing about the film has to be Shannon's Monday. He's laughably over the top, but somehow hilarious in his bombast, which is much more fun to see than his often nigh-emotionless Nelson van Alden on Boardwalk Empire. Gordon-Levitt's Wilee makes a fine determined-yet-snarky "hero," even as his crazy biking philosophy and anti-bourgeois attitude hint at character depths we never quite reach. Really, all of the actors and stunt people deserve credit for their two-wheeled work here. Some of the character relationships skirt plausibility, but it's of a piece with the film's b-movie, popcorn ethos. That same ethos ensures that, even as you're scoffing at Premium Rush's hyperbolic plot developments and minor inconsistencies, you're aware it's all for fun. Even some too on-the nose scenes late in the film showing the reason for the envelope's time-sensitive nature are more than made up for by the film's pace and humor—especially a running gag involving one unfortunate bike cop. Director Koepp wisely doesn't allow you the time to get bogged down in silly things like plausibility. As such, Premium Rush probably wouldn't make too many serious Top Ten lists, but the more leaden-paced tentpole pictures would do well to learn a thing or two from this pleasant little adrenaline shot of a film.

No comments:

Post a Comment