‘Premium Rush’ review: Brakes are for suckers

Above, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is shown in a scene from "Premium Rush." (Photo credit:

Above, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is shown in a scene from “Premium Rush.” (Photo credit:

‘Premium Rush’ a blast of high-speed fun

Dorky, surprisingly light and more comedic than the high-octane trailers would lead you to believe, “Premium Rush” is just that: a rush. It’s not aiming, nor does it ever attain, a dangerous edge or a deeper meaning. It’s about a bike courier who has a penchant for finding the exact route while recklessly careening though New York City on his brakeless, fixed-gear simple thing of a bicycle, and laughing about the danger he regularly (though not always) avoids.

And when our reluctant hero, Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “The Dark Knight Rises”), crashes head first, you feel that blistering pain. Because, thanks to director David Koepp, the stunts are real. The sweat, the fear, the contracting muscles: You see them, you connect with the sensation (even if the digital cars won’t kill you with their bumpers). And the few digital takes, mostly involving a souped-up Google map showing Wilee the fastest path to his destination, are interesting detours.

“Rush,” a quippy little film that pits out the one-liners in rapid-fire succession, pits Wilee against the resident dirty cop, Bobby Monday (a crazy-eyed Michael Shannon). You see, Monday has a bit of a gambling problems, which inevitably leads him into debt (mainly because he’s awful at his game of choice). In order to put himself into the good graces of his debtors, he gets involved with a money-laundering outfit, in which a visiting student, Nima (Jamie Chung, “Dragon Ball: Evolution”) plays a “central” role.

The emphasis on “central” is particular for “Rush” simply because the plot is mostly inconsequential. Yeah, we have the pretty girl, Vanessa (Dania Ramierz), who gives the hero grief; the arrogant rival, Manny (Wole Parks); and a plethora of other forgettable characters who add forgettable dialogue or information. Gordon-Levitt and Shannon are the real stars here, and their relatable (Gordon-Levitt’s) and off-putting (Shannon’s) characters are gold.

With the plot being irrelevant, it’s the zany action and antics that hold your attention. And there are plenty of them, ranging from the battle against a bike cop (though not as funny as seeing Channing Tatum and Johan HIll as bike cops in “21 Jump Street”) to the awe-inducing parkour-like tricks of our main character. And because the focus is rightly placed on this action, the lack of a plot is forgivable (and needed at this point, because when you try to mesh the bits together, you get something the Mad Hatter would be proud of).

But that’s not the point. The point is about the ride (and maybe the money you get when you actually deliver the package, which doesn’t happen all too much here). And it doesn’t get any better than when that package is paid to be “Premium Rush.” (Oh, unless you count the flash mob. That’s pretty cool, too.)

Four riding stars out of five.

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