The last thing to go through his mind will be his ass.
The last thing to go through his mind will be his ass.

Premium Rush tries to cash in on the bike messenger craze sweeping the nation, and has now merited two films including the Kevin Bacon opus Quicksilver.

Oh … wait … I’m mistaken. Nobody really gives a shit about bike messenger movies. They didn’t back in 1986, and they most certainly do not now.

Premium Rush is actually a little better than the absolutely useless Quicksilver, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt giving a typically capable performance. He plays Wilee, a law school dropout turned bike messenger in Manhattan. He likes speed, and his bike has no brakes. He lives life all out, with the constant prospect of going over the handlebars and splatting all over Times Square.

The movie wouldn’t be dick if it were just about Wilee running around town delivering love letters. Nope, things get crazy when he finds himself delivering an envelope from a former schoolmate (Jamie Chung) that has caught the deranged attention of an NYPD officer with a gambling problem. As Bobby the crazed cop, Michael Shannon provides the film with a cartoon villain performance that’s enjoyably odd.

The film is a bunch of bike riding and racing scenes that never amount to anything worthy of Gordon-Levitt and Shannon’s time. Heck, it isn’t even worthy of a Roger Daltrey song, like the one on the Quicksilver soundtrack. Do you remember that toe-tapper, “Quicksilver Lightning?” Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Premium Rush is directed by David Koepp, who helmed 2008’s likeable Ghost Town and got eaten by a T-Rex in The Lost World: Jurassic Park (his character was billed as “Unlucky Bastard”).

Koepp does a couple of mildly exhilarating chase scenes, and I liked the gimmick of Wilee seeing into the immediate future and envisioning various crash scenarios if he picks certain paths. The action slows down as you see inside Wilee’s head, and he envisions himself either squeaking through traffic or hitting taxicabs, baby strollers, etc.

As cool as some of the sequences are, they service a plot that goes nowhere and feels derivative. The movie actually plays like an unofficial remake of Quicksilver, which also featured an upwardly mobile young man taking to the streets on his bike because it makes him feel better than wearing a suit all day. Maybe I should start riding bikes for my vocation because I hate ties, too!

Shannon plays his role with a whining sneer that’s a bit much at times, but he keeps things under control for the most part. I suppose he was looking for some summer blockbuster success with this puppy after smaller fare like Take Shelter and Machine Gun Preacher. He’ll have to wait for his turn as General Zod in the next Superman movie, Man of Steel.

Gordon-Levitt, riding a good year with The Dark Knight Rises and the upcoming and promising Looper and Lincoln, brings credibility to a poorly written, cookie-cutter role. He’s a likeable actor, and while the movie is by no means good, he makes the proceedings a little more tolerable simply for who he is. It reminds me of Tom Cruise bringing a certain amount of charm to the equally vapid Cocktail and Days of Thunder.

There are many moments of bike riders recklessly dodging cars, running red lights, and generally causing street mayhem. At one point, Shannon’s character tells Wilee that everybody in New York hates him and could care less about him. There are no truer words spoken by a character in Premium Rush.

I suppose I would rank my need to see another bike messenger movie like Premium Rush alongside my need to see a movie about people washing their socks in a backyard basin using Ivory Soap. There was no call for this movie, and how it attracted the likes of Gordon-Levitt and Shannon is beyond me.

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