Monday, August 27, 2012

David Koepp's PREMIUM RUSH: NYC bike messengers' near-death experiences

What -- Quicksilver wasn't enough? Granted that was a quarter-century ago, but didn't the Kevin Bacon bike-messenger movie cure us of the need to see these guys (and gals) racing through our city streets, breaking every rule of traffic law possible while endangering the lives of all on-hand pedestrians? Guess not. So now we have co-writer (with John Kamps) and director David Koepp's new addition to this deservedly meager genre, PREMIUM RUSH, staring one of TrustMovies' favorite young actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I mention my liking of Mr. Gordon-Levitt upfront, so that when I tell you that, from almost the first few moments of the film, I wished his character immediate death, you'll understand that this is nothing personal.

Some moviegoers tell me that they cannot abide films in which the hero is a Wall Street or banking bad boy. This is perfectly understandable in this day and age. While I detest and would happily see all these Wall Streeters/Bankers beheaded immediately and generally do not enjoy watching them portrayed on film (Cosmopolis is but the latest example), I was quite taken with Richard Gere's portrayal of exactly this sort of guy in the upcoming Arbitrage, which opens next week (more on this one later). No, my particular bête noire is the bicycle messenger, over, around and about which I myself have had numerous close calls avoiding disaster. So watching these creeps endanger NYC pedestrians and motorists as they gleefully zoom around town in Mr. Koepp's movie (the filmmaker is shown above) is particularly provoking.

I am trying to be fair here, and I think that, were this movie better conceived, written and directed, I could have enjoyed it and given it a pass. But there are so many coincidences along the way that credibility is soon sacrificed at the altars of speed and convenience. Adding to the sense of the ridiculous is the filmmaker's insistence on stopping along the way -- whenever our hero (Mr. Gordon-Levitt) is faced with a difficult driving decision -- to show us the various choices he faces. This take a lot of time to observe, yet the the driver must make his decision immediately. These two time frames do not compute, and so in each instance that this happens, more credibility is lost -- not to mention the audience's annoyance at yet another example of nit-wittery on display.

The story has to do with a "ticket" that takes the place of money (this in itself makes little sense, even though the filmmaker leads us through the concept step by step) owed to the Chinese "smugglers" who are going to deliver something precious. And if this ticket is practically as important as life itself to the young Chinese woman who possesses it, why in hell would she not take it to the destination herself, in person, rather than giving it over to a bike messenger (even one whom we're told is the best in NYC). This is more dumb nonsense, served up poorly.

Along the way we get to know a few other messengers, barely, and they can all die along with Gordon-Levitt's character, as all of them are equally dangerous to the city. And these are the good guys. The bad guys are NYC cops, one in particular, played by that excellent actor Michael Shannon (below, center, left) who is the worst of the bunch -- a dirty cop who is also not terribly bright.

Neither is the bicycle-pedaling policeman who chases after our "hero," in the process endangering the lives of the citizens he's supposed to protect. Everyone in this movie is pretty much a dumb asshole, and after a time, this sort of thing does rankle. I would think that any viewers who live in big cities where bike messengers play, will give this movie not a thumbs-up but a thumb-in-the-nose.

Something else rankled, too. I saw Premium Rush at the AMC Empire 25 theater in Manhattan at the 10:30 am Saturday screening. The movie was shown in something called ETX (Enhanced Theater Experience) which cost an extra $4. The sound was fine, the picture fine and the screen maybe seemed a bit bigger than usual (but nothing like IMAX). So what was worth the extra money? Nothing, really. Just another rip-off from the folk who keep ripping you off.

To learn where the movie is playing near you, simply click here, but then DON'T click on ENTER THE SITE. Instead, scroll down to Get Tickets & Showtimes, enter your zip code and click on Search. You'll soon see you own city's theaters appearing.....

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