“I like to ride. Fixed gear. No brakes. Can’t stop. Don’t want to, either.”
Just when you thought that Joseph Gordon-Levitt couldn’t be more versatile he becomes Lance Armstrong (recent circumstances notwithstanding). David Koepp’s new action/thriller, Premium Rush, is about a young bike messenger named Wilee, who winds up entangled in a conflict surrounding a package he has been charged with delivering. The story involves a dirty cop, a motherless child and an interesting network of personal relationships within the bike messenger community. (Light spoilers)
Wilee: Brakes are death.
Firstly, we are presented with a cliche character in Wilee, whose name gives us an idea of his characteristics. Young guy, scared to death of the grey suits walking up and down Wall Street. He lives fast, and without reservation. These character traits are extended to the way in which Wilee rides his bike (literally, with no breaks).
The story escalates quickly into a frenzy over a letter Wilee is charged with delivering, and from then on the film become increasingly anachronistic. We are introduced to different parts of the storyline as they become relevant. The story of the dirty cop, Bobby Monday, who gets in deep with the gamblers. The story of Wilee and his girlfriend Vanessa. Ten finally the story of the letter’s sender and Vanessa’s roommate, Nima, whose fate relies on the delivering of the letter to the proper recipient.
The film was paced rather well. Many scenes feature Wilee pausing and determining the best route to go in New York City traffic. In theses moments the directing and cinematography have the feel of a video game, which is something I enjoyed and also found effective, seeing as Koepp seemed to want the viewer to understand Wilee’s intuition, and reliance on adrenaline and instinct.
I was personally impressed with the volume of ethnic actors and actresses in the film. Aside from JGL and Michael Shannon, all primary players were ethnic minorities. This includes X-Men: The Last Stand’s Dania Ramirez, who is Dominicana, as the love interest of the main character, Wilee; Aasif Mandvi, an Indian-American as Wilee’s boss; Black actor Wolé Parks as Manny, the cocky bastard whose role teetered between playful antagonist and reluctant comrade; and finally Korean-American Jamie Chung, who played the women at the center of the controversy. I’d like to take a moment to commend Koepp for the inclusion of such an uncommonly diverse arsenal of actors and actresses. I wish it weren’t so unusual, but credit is due.
When it comes down to the actual story, ultimately, Wilee is the sympathetic character. He wants to live free, and ride uninhibited. And while he suffers an injury because of this ideology, he eventually ties up the loose ends of the story and comes out on top. Even Vanessa, who represented a sort of incentive for Wilee to reconsider his ways, eventually comes around to his way of thinking. There’s even a flashback to the night when Wilee first wins his bike in a raffle of sorts. There is somethings about the presentation that glorifies that night; he gets the bike, and he meets his girl, the only two things he seems to care about. Koepp’s intention to give this way of life an allure is ever present. While the movie ends with Wilee making some concessions, the take away still seems to be that real freedom is in the choice to live without breaks.
The movie is fun, fast-paced, funny and charming. Everything you can hope to enjoy on a slow Friday night. In terms of reaching its goals, this was a very solid film, and you’ll probably like it as much as I did.