Bicycle messengers risk their lives daily, bobbing and weaving in and out of traffic, avoiding head-on collisions with suddenly open car doors and wayward pedestrians, all in the name of an on-time delivery. They’re competitive, but knowing most people on the street see them as a nuisance, they also look out for each other. Premium Rush encapsulates this subculture while putting an extreme twist on it that would push any bike messenger to his or her limits.
The most fearless rider in Manhattan is Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who tears through town on a fixed gear bike with no brakes. The guy can’t stop — and he doesn’t want to. Wilee plays out all potential scenarios in his head trying to avoid the most gruesome ones: Time slows as Wilee maps out the cause and effect of each prospective path, seeing himself collide with cars, pedestrians, and (in one particularly wince-inducing case) a stroller, before being catapulted into the air and meeting the pavement. Though he’s no stranger to injuries — he’s incurred multiple concussions and broken ribs — Wilee never hesitates.
It seems, both to the audience and his peers, that Wilee has a death wish, especially since he graduated from law school but still chooses to be a bike messenger. Wilee can’t stand the thought of wearing a suit and working in an office. Despite having endured a formal education, he seems to scoff at academic achievements, skipping his girlfriend’s — fellow messenger Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) — graduation. Wilee is already having a bad day when he gets a package that puts him in more danger than ever before.
Detective Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon) has a problem: He’s in deep with the bosses of Chinatown’s underground gambling scene. When he hears about a package worth 50 grand that’s being delivered in the area, he’ll stop at nothing to get his hands on it, even if that means running over the messenger carrying it. Shannon is flawless in the role, menacing enough to put the audience on edge, but also desperate and pathetic enough to provide comic relief throughout. Shannon’s older crooked cop and Gordon-Levitt’s sometimes juvenile wise-ass clash wonderfully, especially when a bit about the terms “douche” and “suck it” pays off.
With jumps in time and changes in point-of-view, Premium Rush tells a well-rounded story. It covers the issues in the personal lives of all major players — from Wilee to Detective Monday to the package sender (Jamie Chung), who faces devastating consequences if it isn’t delivered to the correct place. This combination of motives and intertwined story lines provide something for everyone: action, romance, comedy, drama, etc. Even if you don’t care about the more serious aspects of the film, which never go very deep, the film has enough thrills — from car chases to bike tricks and races — to keep you well entertained for an hour and a half.