Never has cycling been so accessible and desirable to the Great British public as it currently is - due to the glamorising of the recreation following our brilliant success at the Olympic Games in such a field. So it therefore seems like a somewhat fitting time for David Koepp's cycle-mad Premium Rush to get its UK release.
Set over the course of just one evening in Manhattan, we follow the adrenaline fuelled lives of a group of bike messengers, in particular that of the chanceful and hazardous Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). What appears to just be a simple job for the audacious messenger- delivering an envelope from Nima (Jamie Chung) to a hair salon in China Town - soon becomes a matter of life and death - as this mysterious package is of a high interest to dirty cop Bobby (Michael Shannon).
A fateful game of cat and mouse soon transpires, as Bobby proceeds to chase Wilee across the city, desperate to get his hands on the envelope. Wilee takes his profession seriously however, and is determined to succeed in delivering the item before the 7pm deadline. Bobby may have a car but he's up against one of the most talented cyclists in New York, who also happens to have back up in the form of his colleagues, including a certain Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), the on-off girlfriend of the courier.
In what is effectively one long chase, Premium Rush is fast-paced and relentless in its approach, with little respite. However, the film suffers a result as it's almost too consistently inexorable, barely allowing any time for the audience to catch their breath. Don't get me wrong I love a good old chase scene in a movie, but they're often seven or eight minutes long, ten at a push. This is an hour and a half. By the end you feel exhausted, as though you've cycled across Manhattan with them. I thought I was going to leave the cinema with a sweat rash.
However the positive aspect to the unrelenting, unadulterated approach taken by Koepp, is that Premium Rush can't be accused of not being gripping cinema, as it has you hooked from start to finish. There is also a somewhat unique spin to this - it's not your typical cat and mouse tale. We have a series of intriguing sub-plots and supporting characters all carrying their own agenda's. Everyone appears to want to get their hands on this envelope, and all for different reasons.
Premium Rush simply doesn't take itself seriously, and is presented in a quite stylistic way, as a film that would be easily transferable into a video game. We have computerised graphics to tells us the time and how long Wilee has left to make the drop off, and when he plans his routes we are presented with a digitalised Manhattan to show us how Wilee is going to get to his destination. In fact, Premium Rush is actually quite a good New York movie as we truly get a sense for the hustle and bustle of everyday life, whilst showing off the sights as most of the film is set on the streets of the busy city.
Gordon-Levitt turns in a strong performance as our lead, equipped with the cheeky, carefree persona that his character requires. However it is Shannon who steals the show, turning in a fine performance as the films antagonist. He's menacing and malevolent, but you can't help but sympathise for him also. He isn't out to hurt anyone, he just wants to get his grubby hands on this troublesome package.
Premium Rush does exactly what you'd expect from such a film and will no doubt cater perfectly to a teenage boy audience, full up of bike tricks and close encounters with incoming traffic. However, I can't help but feel it glamorises dangerous driving, as Wilee carelessly cycles around, causing car accidents and going through red lights. The man shouldn't be celebrated for such actions, he should be ticketed.