PREMIUM RUSH – Review by Susan Granger

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This race-against-time thriller finds Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, channeling Wile E. Coyote), a bicycle messenger entrusted with a mysterious ‘premium rush’ envelope from Columbia University in uptown Manhattan that he must deliver downtown to Chinatown. He’s having problems with his girlfriend Vanessa (Dania Ramiriz), another bike courier who’s being pursued by his rival Manny (Wole Parks). And his light-weight cycle is a “fixie,” meaning it has only one gear and no stopping power. But that’s nothing compared to menacing Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), a sneering New York detective with a gambling problem, who really wants that envelope.

Co-written by John Kamps and director David Koepp (“Ghost Town”), it gets points for graphic originality and terrific action visuals. Most of the chase sequences – 96%, according to Koepp – are real, meaning without resorting to computer-generated imagery. And among the peddling daredevils is Scottish street cyclist Danny MacAskill, whose YouTube videos attract millions of views.

“With CG, you can always feel the fingers on the keyboard, no matter how good it gets,” Koepp told the New York Times. “With stunts, you know it had to hurt.”

Indeed, during a nine-day stretch when his team roamed the Big Apple, filming in the streets, at least one member of the production cast/crew required emergency medical treatment each day, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who needed 31 stitches after careening into the window of a taxi.

Yet Koepp’s pace loses momentum when he veers into expositional flashbacks to reveal the contents of that envelope and why it has value to so many people. In addition, given the 90 minute deadline, there’s no logical explanation why the courier doesn’t just take the subway for this particular errand. Koepp is also tripped up by Jamie Chung’s bordering-on-racist portrayal of Nima, a desperate Chinese exchange student who barely speaks English and just happens to have a history with Vanessa. Too many unrealistic coincidences decrease believability.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Premium Rush” delivers a silly, speeding 6, filled with impressive chase scenes and stunt work on a bike without brakes.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.