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Star – Joseph Gordon Levitt
Genre – Action
Run Time –91minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – USA
Amazon – £2.50 DVD £4.33 Blue Ray
Awards – 1 Wins & 4 Nominations
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So you may have heard about the ‘gig economy’, a method of employment where companies get around paying employers holiday and sick pay by locking them in as their own personal self employed workers, very much a take it or leave it deal, especially if you drive a cab or work as a courier these days. This enables the employers to get much more work out of a whole fleet of workers for less money. With black cabs there are only so many cabs for so many punters so fairs artificially inflated on supply on demand rules but with the internet and satnav, The Knowledge has lost its kudos and value and so outdated, hence Uber. Now any mini cab driver can flick on the satnav and get you where you need to be and so no skill involved and so companies like Uber stepped in and said we will over supply cabs so its stacked in favor of the passengers and so they are always satisfied but leave the drivers having to take far more fairs a day to earn what they were earning before the days of Uber. It’s exactly the same for cycle couriers, those pesky grebo’s you see whizzing around our big cities. Then some bright spark in Hollywood said hey, let’s make an action thriller about those guys and cast Joseph Gordon - Levitt in the lead! A bonkers idea it proved. No doubt the cast & crew were on zero hours contracts.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt ... Wilee
Michael Shannon …Detective Bobby Monday
Dania Ramirez ... Vanessa
Sean Kennedy ... Marco
Kym Perfetto ... Polo
Anthony Chisholm ... Tito
Wolé Parks ... Manny
Kevin Bolger ... Squid
Aasif Mandvi ... Raj
Lauren Ashley Carter ... Phoebe
Aaron Tveit ... Kyle
Jamie Chung ... Nima
Christopher Place ... Bike Cop
Hotshot cycle courier Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) spends his days whizzing around Manhattan delivering packages with no brakes and one gear to various businesses and customers. In between that he is dating fellow cycle courier chick Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) and super competitive with fellow fast rider Marco (Sean Kennedy) on the job. The college dropout doesn’t care much for an office job career and somehow gets by on $80 a day, Uber style contracts for all. If they don’t deliver it someone else will is the courier code.
Today will be like no other when Wilee picks up a package at NY University from a woman called Nima (Jamie Chung), the Chinese roommate of Vanessa, who wants the package urgently delivered to Chinatown, and she looks worried. The package is more important than Wilee realizes when he is accosted in the student carpark by a man (Michael Shannon) claiming to be the college Dean, and when Will won’t hand it over, he gets chased by the guy who clearly isn’t the Dean.
From then on in its one mad pursuit after another as bicycle cop (Christopher Place) joins the pursuit of the tearaway kid after one infringement too many on the walkway, weaving through the busy Manhattan traffic, often going the wrong way down a one-way street. But the guy chasing them is willing to do anything to get that package back and so our courier call in his mates on two wheels to deliver the package as he cant go to the cops.
This is pretty bonkers stuff and without Joseph Gordon-Levitt' in the lead it would have tanked for sure. A fixed-wheel bike with a single gear and no brakes about describes this instantly forgettable bit of Hollywood bunkum. Its light on character and plot but, even on two wheels, the action is fast and furious and so enough fun to give it a 3-out-of-5. And it was a physical shoot as Levitt had to ride those bikes fast around the city and came off a few times, one time hitting a cab and smashing into the rear windshield, shattering it. He managed to block his face with his arms and needed 31 stitches on the right. He has hit his head a few times in movies I have noticed.
For all its silliness its kind a fun but the acting is not great, Michael Shannon (The FBI agent in Boardwalk Empire) getting typecast now as the brooding villain. JGL can act and he keeps us racing along with him as we hope the action movie becomes a credible thriller. But it doesn’t and the rather dumb plot and confusing jeopardy doesn’t offer any twists and only the use of some cute graphics and non linear plotting (think Pulp Fiction) keeps this above the norm. But I dint grumble or turn it off and if the director has a map fascination and wants to make movie about them then so be it.
The multiplex audience was not duly impressed with what is that rather silly film and its $35 million made just $31 million back, enough people going to see it because JGL was in it but poor word-of-mouth thereafter. I can’t see its one to not bother with as there is enough there to watch it but you have to say the action sequences are just too silly to be contemplated and so the film loses its credibility early on. I will say New Yorkers would like it as it was a film clearly made for them and about their city and no doubt howling at the screen when the director got his cartography wrong. It’s a bold idea to have a bicycle courier movie in Manhattan but if the director had just told himself those words then maybe he would have picked a smarter project.
Imdb.com – 6.5/10.0 (96,356votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 75% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 66critic’s approval
-The Starting Gun-
Behind the scenes stuff on the concept of the film and the casting
-Behind the Wheel-
As above really and nothing to see here. Its really nota film worth explaining.
Deadspin –‘The movie, idiotic as it is, has its charms, thanks in large part to its two main actors’.
The Patriot Ledger –‘Gordon-Levitt proves he's the best actor on two wheels, pedaling furiously to save a grueling ride from becoming more tiresome’.
Time Out –‘Just a few spokes short of a wheel, guys’.
NY Times –‘Premium Rush is that rare bird: a chase picture that's just a chase picture - and a dandy one’.
The Mail –‘It's weightless and graceless, complete with a stock love story, a cloying human interest angle, and no shortage of poor acting’.
So far it has already been one hell of a ride for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the current darling of the indie scene, who has continued with each passing film stepped closer and closer to becoming a mainstream star. Yet despite his quickly raising star status, thanks in part to his work with Christopher Nolan who directed him in both "Inception" and "The Dark Knight Rises" he has somehow managed to retain the charm and presence which made his indie films so memorable. This latest film however could possibly be considered his first mainstream role, as he appears here as Wilee, a New York City bicycle messenger who soon finds himself chased around the city by the dirty cop Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon) who is keen to get hold of the seemingly plain envelope that Wilee has been tasked to deliver.
Now anyone who has ever lived or spent any amount of time in any major city, will no doubt be familiar with the kamikaze bicycle couriers, who frequently run the streets with little if any concern for traffic or pedestrians and it's this adrenalin fuelled and highly competitive world which director David Koepp has chosen to try and capture with this film and it's safe to say he has done an astounding job, for the film literally thunders through it's brisk runtime, following Wilee as he makes his way through the city, while at the same time battling to keep his title as the number one courier in the city, fending off the competition from his ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) and his cocky rival Manny (Wolé Parks) with Koepp making sure that audience are taken along for the ride as he switches between side by side and handlebar shots, to truly capture the speed let alone the frequently hazardous riding style with Wilee and his fellow couriers use to ensure that they make their delivery times. Equally fun is the consequences cam, which appears throughout the film, often when Wilee is being forced to choose between a number of alternative route, with the wrong paths being shown to their frequently bone crunching outcome. Koepp meanwhile resists the typical sweeping shots of New York City tourism hotspots, with shots of Time Square and the Empire State building being exchanged for the grimy traffic packed streets and the sleazier parts of Chinatown, as he shows more confidence in the directors chair than previous seen in his other films
Gordon-Levitt here once again embodies his character, making it clear from the start how much Wilee loves his job, even with potential death lurking at every street crossing, something certainly not helped by Wilee's bike setup which also has no brakes, due to an earlier accident which is frequently hinted at yet frustratingly never fully explained. Still with the stunt man shots seemingly being non existent here, aswell as the reports of him injuring himself after he crashed into the back of a taxi, I did wonder if Gordon-Levitt was a keen cyclist before making the film, especially when he looks so comfortable weaving his way through the city. Obviously by the time we get to the impound lot finale, it is clear that some of the more trickier and flashier riding is being done by a professional, but for the most part the distinction between stuntman and Gordon-Levitt is flawless.
Michael Shannon is a pitch perfect bad guy, while fans of "Boardwalk Empire" will be slightly surprised that he doesn't carry across the same grumbling tones he has become so synonymous with as the result of that breakout role. Still the level of obsession that his character processes with obtaining the envelope is equally comparable to that of Sheriff Teasle in "First Blood" or Sheriff Buford T. Justice in "Smokey and the Bandit" which bizarrely is the film I kept feeling an overwhelming urge to compare this film to, with both featuring a good looking rebel playing by their own rules and with a obsessive focus on making it to their goal, while being opposed by a member of law enforcement who just won't quit. Okay arguably Shannon's character Bobby is a much more corrupt figure whose motivations are a lot more to do with his own personal gain, in this case clearing his gambling debts with the local triads, than anything resembling upholding the law.
The action sequences are frequently inventive, while maintaining a sense of speed throughout, as the riders skip red lights, hurtle down sidewalks and frequently go against the traffic, while it's safe to say that when things go bad the results are frequently nothing short of bruising as the impact of bodies hitting the hard concrete is certainly felt, even though bizarrely for how punishing these crashes look no one ever seems to suffer any kind of major injury. Koepp also doesn't just limit the riders to just riding as quick as possibly as he also mixes things up with some fun bike stunts, while a impromptu race between Wille and Manny through central park keeps the action from getting stale if you find yourself tiring of the traffic dodging antics.
Due to the quick pace and focus on the action, none of the characters are especially deep with brief asides to look at Wille and Vanessa's relationship, while a selection of slightly misplaced flashbacks do slow down the action from the frantic chase, yet essentially filling the audience in enough to justify the importance of the envelope. Still it is doubtful that you will find yourself with time to dwell on such points, especially when it moves at such a blistering pace, with Gordon-Levitt's raw charm certainly covering for a lot and generally playing off Shannon who provides a suitable threat without having to resort to cartoonish levels of villainy or general sneering.
Baring all the usual writing flair Koepp brings to his projects, it's good to see him finally being able to bring that to the screen as a director, especially after his previous misfires, while the film it's self has all the feel of a summer blockbuster and more than a few tricks to make this one of the more surprisingly enjoyable if still disposable films of the year.