So my wife and I were in the mood for a movie. And there was nothing in town that, you know, jumped up waving its hand shouting ‘me, me, I’m what you want to see!’ But I had a vague notion that this thing called Premium Rush was sort of fun, and it was that or sit through 2016: Obama’s America again. Not. So Premium Rush it was.
Man, it’s fun. We had a blast. It’s about bicycle messengers in New York, these insane people who can get any document from anywhere in Manhattan to anywhere else in, like, an hour, which they accomplish by riding like maniacs. Bikes with no gears or (gulp) brakes, zipping around cars, essentially treating the space between cars in traffic as their own personal bike lanes. When they can’t find a sidewalk.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Wilee (pronounced like the coyote), the putative ‘best’ insane cyclist in New York, craziest of the crazy. He’s got a sorta kinda girlfriend, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), another bike messenger, and a romantic rival, Manny (Wole Parks), ditto. His dispatcher/boss, Raj (Aasif Mandvi, from The Daily Show), negotiates the cyclists’ cut on a per transaction basis, but has their backs in a crunch (as movie bosses so often do). Vanessa also has a roommate, Nima (Jamie Chung), who, for some reason, is kicking her out of their apartment, and so Vanessa faces a housing crisis–for which Wilee and Manny are more than happy to suggest a solution.
So that’s where everyone is when Michael Shannon appears. He plays Bobby Monday, a bad cop, in too deep with gambling debts, and losing it. And that’s one of the things I like best about the movie. It’s a thriller, and the bad guy is just . . . a corrupt cop. It’s not a terrorist thing, it’s not about a nuclear explosion about to destroy New York and everyone in it. It’s about a bad cop trying to rip someone off to pay gambling debts. This doesn’t lower the stakes, it just adds a patina of plausibility to, well, an inherently implausible story.
Basically, Vanessa’s roomie, Nima, has given money to an old Chinese guy, who will, if paid, smuggle her four year old son to the US from China. The MacGuffin’s some kind of verification code thingy; it’s in an envelope, and Our Hero is trying to deliver it to the person who will complete the transaction and bring the kid in from China.
In the meanwhile, the movie is just about fast bikes zipping in and around Manhattan traffic, usually with Michael Shannon, in his detective car, in full chase. Oh, and a bicycle cop is in involved, as comic relief.
It’s terrific. Edge of your seat excitement from beginning to end. We had a ball. It’s not a movie that invites introspection, and the plot doesn’t actually make much sense. But dang it’s fun. Go see it.