The real surprise of 'Premium Rush' is the fact that it successfully turns the job of a bike messenger into an effective and vigorously energetic piece of entertainment. With the all the thrills and excitement of an edge-of-your-seat actioner and the compassionate soul of a well-meaning drama, David Koepp's film takes audiences along on a rip-roaring, exhilarating ride through the streets of New York City. And the movie shows that while these street daredevils display little consideration for their own safety, they do care for the welfare of others and take their delivery job very seriously. The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the wildest of all messengers, transporting a very hot commodity.
Gordon-Levitt plays Wilee, nicknamed after Wile E. Coyote of classic 'Looney Tunes' cartoons because his antics often give the impression of a death wish to his fellow messengers. Riding a modified bike without brakes — he actually believes them to be death traps — the guy is an adrenaline junkie who enjoys life nonstop on two wheels instead of being locked away in a box, like the lawyer he actually can be if he were to just take the bar exam. He's also a very calculating and determined individual, as one of the film's most impressive aspects comes from Wilee visualizing a variety of routes with their possible outcomes so as to avoid an accident in the instant it's about to happen. Performing some of his own stunts, Gordon-Levitt is believable in the role of the quick-witted, back-talking bicyclist trying to avoid cops and being killed.
The man chasing him is the inimitable Michael Shannon, who does scary crazy like it's his second nature. He's currently enjoying a good deal of praise for his performance as the contract killer Richard Kuklinski in 'The Iceman' and is set to blaze the screen as General Zod in Snyder's 'Man of Steel.' Here, he is the gambling-addicted NYPD detective Bobby Monday. Not sure if the name is meant as some kind cultural jab, but I love it nonetheless for a character that seems to be living in a perpetual state of the Monday blues. He's a frightfully impulsive man with a barely noticeable but nevertheless bizarre twitch in his gait, almost as if evoking classic Hollywood villains with physical deformities hinting at complicated personalities. And in Shannon's capable hands, the character is definitely damaged goods in a terrifically disturbed way.
The plot is extraordinarily simple, pieced together from a variety of familiar parts, most of which are from far better movies. From a script co-written by Koepp with sometime collaborator John Kamps, it's designed with the sole intention of bringing these two wayward, reckless characters into a head-on collision. Shannon's Monday has until the end of the day to come up with the money needed to pay a gambling debt and learns of a ticket worth $50,000, which Wilee was hired to deliver. An outlandish madcap chase quickly ensues through the hectic streets of NYC while our accidental hero tries working through his relationship problems with Vanessa (Dania Ramirez). That's quite a load for a messenger to carry, but as the film proves, Wilee delivers with fervent enthusiasm.
The other intentionality behind the script seems to be simply for Koepp to demonstrate his imaginative and somewhat inventive skill behind the camera. Likely known better as the screenwriter of 'Jurassic Park,' 'Mission: Impossible' and the most recent 'Men in Black 3,' the director establishes a grippingly frenzied pace from the onset, putting viewers in some nerve-wracking sequences accompanied by several animated CG visual effects. All the while, the narrative unfolds in a fragmented structure with plot details interrupting the main action, slowly revealing a slightly more complex and darker story. Using established techniques, Koepp turns an otherwise straightforward action thriller into a pulsating, spellbinding ride weaving in and out of New York City traffic: "Life in the bike lane."
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings 'Premium Rush' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a blue, eco-lite keepcase with an UltraViolet Digital Copy. After several skippable trailers, viewers are greeted by a main menu with full-motion clips and music.
'Premium Rush' rides onto Blu-ray with a world-class, bitchin' 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode.
Full of vivid, dynamic colors which animate and energize the screen, the high-def transfer explodes with sumptuous primaries, from Wilee's intensely red shirt to the lush greens of the trees throughout New York City. Softer pastel hues are also warm and cleanly rendered while facial complexions appear natural with revealing lifelike textures.
The 2.40:1 image really shines with spot-on contrast and brilliant whites while black levels are true and rich. With marvelous definition and clarity from beginning to end, we can clearly make out every scratch, dent and the physical abuse each messenger's bike endures. The fine lines of buildings are sharply detailed, individual threads on clothing are distinct, and the most trivial scars and blemishes on faces are plainly visible.
Weaving in and out of traffic is this equally smashing DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, which fills the room with the bustling chaos of NYC's rush-hour streets. Rear speakers are lively with commotion as cars whiz by, a gush of air whooshes to the right or the left, and the angry yells of pedestrians endlessly surround the listener. Directionality is often exhilarating while panning is flawlessly convincing, generating an enthralling soundfield that's enveloping and puts the audience right in the middle of the action.
The original score and song selections also bleed into the background with terrific ease while in the front soundstage, they spread across all three channels with excellent balance and fidelity. Dynamic range is crisp and extensive with exceptional acoustical detailing and clean separation in the arrangement. Low bass doesn't provide the kind of striking impact the imagery implies, but there's still plenty of kick with an appropriate oomph and a great response. Through all this, dialogue remains clear and well-prioritized, making this an awesome listen for a really fun movie.
Along with an UltraViolet Digital Copy, supplements are shared with the day-and-date DVD release.
From David Koepp, 'Premium Rush' is a thrill-a-minute actioner with a fairly straightforward plot about a bike messenger and the corrupt cop chasing after him. It's success comes from how well Koepp executes the entire project and delivers a gripping joyride through the chaotic streets of New York City. The Blu-ray arrives with an excellent audio and video presentation that puts viewers right in the middle of the action. Supplements are on the lighter side, but interesting nonetheless, making the overall package a great watch when you're in the mood for something simple and exciting on a lazy weekend. Recommended.