‘Premium Rush’ Review: Not Even Gordon-Levitt Can Save This Dull Ride

Jess August 26, 2012 0
‘Premium Rush’ Review: Not Even Gordon-Levitt Can Save This Dull Ride
  • Imagery
  • Soundtrack
  • Characters
  • Plot Development
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Director: David Koepp
Writer(s): David Koepp, John Kamps
Producer: Gavin Polone
Actor(s): Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez
Music: David Sardy
Cinematographer: Mitchell Amundsen
Editor(s): Derek Ambrosi, Jill Savitt

Premium Rush gives audiences worldwide an inside look at the bicycle messaging sub-culture of one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Unfortunately, the film has little to offer and wanders in circles of repetitive chase scenes: proof that even a sure-thing actor like Joseph Gordon-Levitt can’t save a lackluster script. Premium Rush is a premium fail.


New York City bicycle messenger Wilee (Gordon-Levitt) thinks he’s found the ultimate career: no business suits, an office with no walls and the freedom of speeding through a highly trafficked city where many are stagnant. Riding around the Big Apple on a fixed gear bike, one without gears or breaks, may have its perks, but Wilee quickly realizes he’s in over his head when a strange man (Shannon) desires one of the packages he must deliver. In order to safely deliver his entrusted package the speedy cyclist must race against time as the cityscape becomes the labyrinth for which he must avoid pedestrians, vehicles, and an irate man who turns out to be a police officer.

The Good:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Literally Never Fails

Premium Rush may have featured corny lines, awkward acting and overly extended chase scenes, but luckily my beloved Joseph Gordon-Levitt didn’t fall victim to a horrible movie. In an otherwise generally terrible film, JGL did what he does best — he makes us care. If you sign Gordon-Levitt onto your project, at the very least you’re guaranteed a beautiful actor who really gets his audience invested. His portrayal of Wilee, the free spirited, law school drop out, and faster-than-fast cyclist didn’t appear challenging for Joseph, who by now is a pro at being the front man for counter-culture. He delivers a sentimental and relatable character, taking life into his own hands; it’s a feat many people only dream of.

Fast Paced Graphics and Camera Action

It’s obvious the movie creators sacrificed some essential elements, opting for more action and special effects than actual substance. Premium Rush featured some pretty sweet graphics. One in particular came in the form of a GPS-like map view of NYC. It was cool to see the metropolis at such high speeds, flying in and out from a birds-eye-view into full action, all with such precise camera work. Cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen’s camera work during the bike scenes was one of the few good things about this film.

The Bad:

The Plot Takes a Backseat

Maybe I’m being old fashioned here, but above all else, the story is the most important element for any movie, and the creative team behind Premium Rush did not care about theirs. It was basically Transporter on bike. About 70% of the movie was pure chasing. While the “fixie” bike without breaks allows you to do some cool things that a typical bike with gears can’t do, it’s not cool enough to watch for an hour and a half. The story was uncreative, only made moderately tolerable by the sweet visual effects. According to box office receipts, writer David Koepp is the fourth most successful writer of all time; unfortunately, Premium Rush will not get him closer to number one.

Jamie Chung is Awkward, Uncomfortable and Possibly Offensive

If you’re wondering why you don’t recognize Chung’s name from the academy, perhaps her training on the 2004 season of MTV’s hit reality show The Real World (San Diego) didn’t exactly make her nomination material. She portrays Nima, the Chinese immigrant whose package is the reason for the hot pursuit. But Chung is actually Korean, and was born and raised in San Francisco. So her Chinese accent is not only fake but kind of stereotypical. It sounded more like she was making fun of Chinese accents than trying at a decent portrayal of one. What’s worse, her acting was staged, robotic and really just made me uncomfortable.


A big problem with the movie was the script. Joseph Gordon-Levitt definitely helped bring the movie into some sort of realism but he fought a raging bull of cheesy lines and unnecessary comments. Michael Shannon went in and out of ridiculousness. Known best for his role on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Shannon strives for villainous characters but really gets lost in his portrayal of NYPD Officer Bobby Monday. But he reminds me of Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of FBI Agent Paul Smecker in Boondock Saints; he’s just a little too outrageous for Premium Rush, which otherwise had a relatively realistic demeanor. Shannon definitely portrayed a convincing disgruntled cop but his lines were often too cheesy to convince us he was genuine.

Dirty Cops

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

While I’m all for outing the corrupt and unethical in government agencies, I think Premium Rush may have taken a few jabs at the NYPD that even had me a little taken aback. Officer Monday is inherently disgruntled with gambling addiction but it’s the scene when Wilee is taken away in an ambulance that things get sketchy. Wilee is already strapped in the ambulance when Monday debates with the EMT about allowing him to question Wilee alone in the vehicle. At first, the EMT is hesitant, suggesting it’s not allowed, but Monday asks as a “favor to the NYPD” and the EMT finally accepts. The way Mondays says that, the dramatic pause and look from the EMT, it sort of seemed to hint towards many of the allegations of New York Police Officer’s breaking the law. Too soon.

After Monday is left in the back of the ambulance with Wilee, the scene cuts to Wilee in Monday’s vehicle. Did they ever go to the hospital? The EMT’s reported that Wilee has broken ribs. Wouldn’t the hospital notice when the victim never arrives? Maybe it was an editing error, maybe they just didn’t care, but one second they’re in the ambulance and the next they’re in Monday’s car, no transition or explanation.

Overall Score: 2/5

Premium Rush was bad but not terrible. By no means should you spend money to see it in theaters, and really there’s no need to rent it on video either. At best its upbeat soundtrack paired with fast camera shots makes Premium Rush a really long music video. The movie offers nothing more than great close-up shots of  Joseph Gordon-Levitt glistening with sweat and some fluid special effects, but nothing you can’t find in other movies. Movies should make statements, challenge ideas and break boundaries; they’re moving artwork. Unfortunately for Premium Rush, it’s pretty much just moving.

‘Premium Rush’ Movie Trailer:

‘Premium Rush’ Interview with Joseph Gordon-Levitt: