Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) goes flying through the air, leaving his bicycle behind him and landing in a painful heap on the road. To find out why this accident occured, we have to go back in time approximately an hour and a half to when he was carrying out his job as a cycle courier and his working day was winding down. Not that this made him travel any slower, he was addicted to the speeds he could reach as he snaked through the New York City traffic, an expert at deciding the right route to get to his destination in the shortest possible time. But today the pressure was on...
That's because today Wilee was being chased, by Michael Shannon no less, or at least Shannon playing a bent copper who needs his latest package to fall into the cop's hands rather than the hands of those it is supposed to be in. The reasons for that were illustrated over the rest of writer and director David Koepp's movie, and he had over the years become a dab hand at crowdpleasing popcorn flicks, or at least he had been until he penned the script for the fourth Indiana Jones instalment which saw him receive an awful lot of flak for replacing Frank Darabont on that production. Was that the reason Premium Rush failed to catch on with audiences?
Certainly it found a few viewers, but for an action movie with a high concept it might have been expected to do better than it did; perhaps Gordon-Levitt was not quite ready to carry a blockbuster yet, not in the lead role at any rate. As to that concept, there have down cinema history been low budget efforts which seize the imaginations of both filmmakers and filmgoers: Night of the Living Dead changed the face of horror movies, The Blair Witch Project wrote the rules on the fresh popularity of found footage movies, for example. But some, while making an impact, just don't appear to have many imitators, and remain strictly cult movies... Run Lola Run was one of those.
Aside from the Crank franchise starring Jason Statham there was not an abundance of films replicating the throw anything you can at it and see what sticks formula of thrillers to be seen, but Koepp attempted to change that with his tricksy camerawork, onscreen graphics to denote the seriousness of the situation, and a pace best described as relentless. Except the latter didn't quite apply, because there was a long stretch a third of the way through, and indeed at parts throughout, where the story needed exposition which complicated what should have been far more simple. There was a lot of explanation going on which could have easily been replaced with more action.
Given early on the plot makes clear its debt to the Road Runner cartoons, with Wilee as the zooming bird, oddly (shouldn't he have been called Mr R. Runner and Shannon's cop be called Wilee?) Koepp really should have streamlined this down to the bare essentials, since it was the action sequences which represented the highlight. Some may be reluctant to find much appeal in a cyclist who cared little for the rules of the road, and the actual mechanics of his flight through the Manhattan streets might have been novel in a genre so tied to the car chase for its excitement, but Koepp sustained a kinetic quality to these which barely paused for breath. It was just the other business involved with setting that up which dragged things down - not an enormous amount, but enough to make the viewer's shoulders sag whenever anyone got off their bike - or fell off, for that matter. For a different spin on a familiar form of thriller, Premium Rush wasn't bad at all, with reservations. Music by David Sardy.