David Koepp is no stranger to Hollywood. The writer/director first arrived onto the scene in the late 1980s and spent a large part of the next decade penning some of Hollywood's most memorable films. Koepp is best known for writing screenplays such as Jurassic Park, Carlito's Way, and Mission: Impossible. As the natural order goes, the success of Koepp's scripts opened the door for him to try his hand at directing. And now Koepp's latest effort arrives in the form of Premium Rush, a high octane action-thriller starring The Dark Knight Rises' own Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Wilee (played by Gordon-Levitt) is an aggressive bike messenger operating in Manhattan, New York. It's all in a day's work for Wilee, where he can be found cruising around the city dodging cabs and pedestrians on a single gear bike with no braking system. Although flying around New York City at suicidal speeds is nothing new for him, one premium rush delivery proves to be more than he can bargain for when he discovers that a not-so-good cop (played by Shannon) is willing to kill him for the letter.
Premium Rush is a disengaging, formulaic and unrealistic attempt at the modern day action-thriller. With hopes of heart pounding chase sequences and a believable backstory, Koepp's final product never feels as action-packed or authentic as it should. At first thought, transforming a bicycle-themed movie into a full fledged action film appears to be a daunting task. Koepp gives a valiant effort, but Premium Rush is too impractical and one-dimensional to hook the audience. One of the most troubling aspects of the feature is its complete disregard for realism. Premium Rush is almost solely centered around a chase, and I can recall at least two instances where Michael Shannon lackadaisically allows Joseph Gordon-Levitt to get away. Considering the scenario the movie creates for its central villain, there's no way that Shannon's character would give up so easily on catching him. Furthermore, in one scene where Gordon-Levitt's character is known to have a fractured rib cage, we see Wilee perform X-Games style bike stunts that would give Evil Knievel goosebumps. As a result, Premium Rush displays poor writing and an utter disregard for reality.
Despite the feature's lack of credibility at times, Premium Rush does provide a pair of strong performances from two of Hollywood's most unappreciated actors. Before The Dark Knight Rises was even a microcosm of a thought in Christopher Nolan's brain, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a well established actor living under the radar. His early work in films like Brick and The Lookout are beyond commendable, but it wasn't until JGL's recent efforts in Inception, 50/50 and The Dark Knight Rises that he was fully embraced by the masses. In a similar fashion, Michael Shannon is a brilliant performer who is well deserving of some recognition. His masterful portrayal in last year's Take Shelter was one of the year's finest roles, yet Shannon became entirely forgotten throughout the awards season. Although these clearly are't anywhere near their best onscreen performances, both of these under-appreciated actors show up, deliver and help keep Premium Rush a modestly fluent picture.
David Koepp's Premium Rush is a lackluster addition to the action-thriller genre. It fails at adequately entertaining the audience and its 91 minute runtime feels more like a marathon than a sprint.