Riding Like Hell
Cycling is a skill everyone ought to pick up, because nothing beats having to careen down busy roads and sidewalks, bypassing traffic for the most parts, and irritating the shit out of pedestrians while working up a sweat. Admit it, everyone probably have had a cyclist whizz by and avoiding a collision by the whisker, and in the cyclist's shoes, there's something of an indescribable adrenaline rush to have come so close, and yet escaping from an accident. It's the thrill of being on the edge, that excites some. When translated to the screen, it brings a simulated experience with nary the real world dangers.
Co-written and directed by David Koepp, Premium Rush encapsulates everything that's efficient and sexy in riding a bike, and stars the current hot property from Tinseltown, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Wilee (moniker for Wild E Cayote), a bike messenger who had chosen his profession because he can't see himself in a suit, armed with a law degree, and getting stuck behind a desk for a job. A trick cyclist who has put his stunt past behind him, and now utilizing his skills to make a living by guaranteeing delivery in the Big Apple, little does he know that the latest package picked up from Jamie Chung's Nima would see him become the constant game for crooked cop Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon, the man who would be General Zod in next year's Man of Steel), who is looking for a way out of a mounting gambling debt, and is seriously in need of anger management classes. Just what Wilee is carrying would probably be immaterial and serves as a necessary plot device to get the movie going, with attempts at weaving a story that's pretty much non-judgemental on the human trafficking trade.
Who would have thought that Bike Messengers would be a serious business in itself, and being quite the no brainer for speedy deliveries being made when the online world starts to act up. Like the Transporter, the messengers courier stuff from one point to another with minimal questions asked, and for the rate they make, it's no wonder it's fairly lucrative, though it seems to be part of compensating the risks being taken on the roads which are unforgiving, especially in crowded cities. For Wilee though, this challenge and lifestyle got a little bit more complex with his no brakes, steel frame, fixed gear mantra, making the protagonist a daredevil at heart and risk taker of sorts, fueling his passion by going for the ultimate ride in each of his assigned deliveries, with the help of GPS navigation.
Koepp probably had a lot of stunt people to thank, and CG artists for coming up with extremely well thought out designs to keep us riveted to the bike action on screen, and I'd swear if there was a pedal in front of me, I'd pedal away as well. A lot of effort had gone into spicing and sprucing a film that's basically multiple journeys from point A to point B, starting with graphical GPS maps that chart out the route one must take, to its associated streetviews at the destination. Then there are plenty of split-second decisions that Wilee has to make, comedic as it presents the different scenarios tied to the various paths that he could utilize to get out of tricky situations, more often than not it's something that's based on the instincts of an experienced rider. And as far as camerawork goes, nothing beats first person perspective behind the handlebars looking on, or adopting a near road level feel as the visuals weave in and out of traffic and obstruction. If this was filmed for the IMAX screen, I'm pretty sure it'll be a hit given its immersive experience, and the deliberate attempts at putting the view smack in the thick of all the action.
The non-linear narrative keep things interesting and engaged for the audience, since it forces you to piece together the chronology of events, and how the series of incidents helped to build suspense for what would be a plain narrative if mapped out in order from beginning to end. Joseph Gordon-Levitt scores in being yet another average Joe character thrust into being the accidental and reluctant hero who has to rely on his innate abilities and street smarts to survive what would be the law constantly on his tail, with Christopher Place playing a beat cop on wheels who's constantly comedy fodder for his lack of biking prowess. And to provide some breathing space in between high octane action sequences, the token on-off relationship between Wiley and fellow rider Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) forces itself like a pit stop in between an endurance run, which could have been done without if not to set up some rivalry between Wiley and Vanessa's potential suitor Manny (Wole Parks), yet again as a catalyst for an out an out race between two bikers who adopt different philosophies in life and biking.
Premium Rush scores in providing a unique selling point to the standard action adventure, and will probably encourage more to pick up the activity, if not more of some who will take it to the streets, or for the less courageous, the pavement, where the rest of us will likely be like the hundreds of faceless persons in the movie, dishing our fair share of colourful languages to those riding like the wind.