Joseph Gordon-Levitt rides for his life.
DIRECTED BY DAVID KOEPP
Premium Rush sat on the shelf for so long that it was starting to seem like damaged goods. On the contrary, all is well. That’s true right from the opening bars of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” which accompany an opening sequence where Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s endangered bike courier sails through the sky. Any lingering worries about the endlessly delayed release date give way to a relentlessly silly good time, grounded by digitally unaided stunt work and one of Michael Shannon’s best performances to date.
Based on one of those all-in-a-day’s-work scripts (co-written by David Koepp, who also directs) that tracks its hero’s progress through a few intense hours, the film follows the curiously named Wilee (Gordon-Levitt) as he races across New York City on his fixie. He’s been commissioned to deliver a mysterious envelope downtown. Easy enough for a guy who prides himself on being able to ride at top speeds and never stop—his bike doesn’t even have a brake, he brags—but before he can get off the ground, he’s stopped by a scummy detective (Shannon) with his own designs on the package.
As plain dumb as things get (at one point a group of bike couriers descends on a suited cop like the winged monkeys from The Wizard of Oz), the upbeat spirit is tough to resist. If Wilee’s Google Maps-inspired vision of the city—all digitally enhanced arrows and billboard-sized street signs—is a distraction, it’s counterbalanced by Koepp’s steady direction and astonishing on-location footage: NYC, thankfully, plays itself. But nothing beats Shannon, hilarious and unhinged as a polite guy with impulse control problems (so he says). Somewhere between Wile E. Coyote and Joe Pesci’s muttering stooge from Home Alone, he’s the best villain a Hollywood B-movie has offered up in years.