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Sunday, October 21, 2012

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(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on 20 October, 2012, retrieved from

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Daniela Ramirez, Jamie Chung, Wole Parks
Director: David Koepp
Rating: 2 stars
I suppose there are two ways of making a chase movie. You could either spend a lot of money on cars and stunts and CGI. Or you could spend a little less money on bicycles, a second-rung cast, fewer stunt artists and tackier CGI. But whatever you do, it remains that a ninety-minute long film with half a dozen chases and very little logic will remain one of those stories that a phone call, a loaded gun, or a timely thought would have rendered redundant.
The seemingly intense, broody character played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt is instantly undermined by the revelation of his name – Wilee. Yes, pronounced like the Coyote. Whether this is because he believes he’s a Road Runner, or whether his parents simply chose to damn him for life, is left to our conjecture.
What does this film have to do with Road Runner? All right, apparently there are 1500 bike runners in New York – which in Hollywood, means Manhattan alone. They deliver parcels that one can’t deliver by cab, email, courier, post or anything else. And they choose to ride cycles, rather than the subway; they choose to risk delivering their parcels late, getting themselves killed, and causing other people to be killed. Why? Because it gives them kicks. If you’re so inclined, you may spend the interval mulling over whether this is an underground mob movement, dating service, or alternative to an insane asylum.
Wilee tells us that he can’t wear suits and work in an office. He feels sorry for his friends who graduate law school, pass the bar exam, and charge a few hundred dollars an hour. They’re missing out on his life of biking around Manhattan for eighty bucks a day, negotiating over an extra ten or twenty for delivering parcels, and winning a new bicycle and a hundred dollars every year.
I suppose Premium Rush was meant to be a thriller. Like all Hollywood thrillers, there’s an exotic foreign connection, involving hawala money and the cruelty of the savage East. Like all Hollywood thrillers, it has several asinine characters who will make out at the cost of being caught by the bad guys. Like all Hollywood thrillers, its idea of a witticism is, “This is the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on”, and its idea of a clever exchange is: “Can’t do it, need to get wasted”, “Fair enough.”
Its value addition is a cop called Bobby Monday, played by Michael Shannon. The cop’s name is the least ridiculous thing about his character, and this doesn’t do the Oscar-nominated Shannon any favours. All he has to do is look enraged, crazy, and freaky in turns. Naturally, there’s no room for subtlety.
The film itself offers some decent moral lessons – if cops are chasing you, it helps to carry a change of clothes; gambling is bad for health, as are loan sharks; ideally, don’t kill people who break your teeth.
The Verdict: If you leave your brains behind, and bring your friends along, you may enjoy Premium Rush.


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