OK, so first things first.
Work, real life, and more work have occupied me for the past few weeks, leaving me precious little time to watch things let alone write about them. But have no fear…just in time for the new television season I will be returning my attentions to where they truly belong: nattering about pop culture on the internet.
Of the many movies I saw this summer – and there were many – the one that surprised me most was Premium Rush. I had no real expectations and decided upon Premium Rush because it was playing 15 minutes earlier than The Campaign. And I’m really glad I did.
With the exception of The Avengers and The Dark Knight, most of the big blockbusters this summer were a bust. As much as I enjoyed John Carter, I am probably the only one who did. And does anyone even remember how long Battleship was in theaters? Even Men in Black III didn’t do the gangbuster box office that was expected. The Amazing Spiderman was good, but ultimately mostly forgettable. So where were the big and exciting action sequences to keep us on the edge of our seats?
Where were they? In this bizarrely awesome bicycle messenger film. Yes. A movie about bike messengers.
The plot doesn’t really matter does it? It’s a movie that spends most of the time rushing through the busy streets of Manhattan, following Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Wilee (yes, as in Wile E. Coyote) on his race against time and against a scene-stealing Michael Shannon. The film revolves around a ticket that Wilee has been hired to delivered and that Shannon’s dirty copy, Detective Monday, wants because it will pay off his copious gambling debts.
There are damsels in distress, mysterious Asian figures, not so mysterious mob figures, and chase scenes, chase scenes, chase scenes. Cars chasing bikes, bikes chasing bikes indoors, bikes chasing bikes outdoors…the movie constantly moves. This combined with the movie’s fluid sense of time keeps you actively engaged.
Wilee is a bit of a departure in some respects from the movie characters JGL has been playing lately. He’s a former law school student who gave up the world of ties and suits for a life avoiding being hit by cabs and open car doors. He has removed the brakes and the gears from his bike, which requires him to always be pedaling. He is always throwing caution and sense out the window, and you honestly fear for his life on more than one occasion. But he is endearing in this carefree attitude and his cocky sense of humor which narrates the film only works to make you like him more.
But he has met his match in Detective Bobby Monday. Michael Shannon is just hysterical. You wouldn’t think it if you are familiar with his Agent Van Alden on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire (season 3 starts this Sunday at 9 pm!). Van Alden doesn’t make you laugh. He is a man so uncomfortable in his own skin, you feel that discomfort just emanating from the television screen. Monday is equally a mess, but far more inventive than Van Alden, looser than Van Alden and a slightly better people manipulator than Van Alden. The scenes in the Chinatown gambling halls are priceless as is Monday’s continued frustrations as Wilee is wily (sorry I had to) and evades him.
I cannot discuss this film without mentioning how wonderful Manhattan looks. From Hell’s Kitchen to Columbia, the city looks alive and real. When I looked up what else director David Koepp had done, I was not surprised to see that he had also written and directed the under-appreciated Ricky Gervais film, Ghost Town. That film showed Manhattan in the soft light of the privileged classes on the Upper West Side (or was it Upper East?) but without making you want to drag the denizens of those buildings out onto the street and shooting them. The fast forward sequences focused on Central Park in Ghost Town were just gorgeous. And Koepp makes the rest of Manhattan look just as great in Premium Rush. Just think of the race between Wilee and Manny from Columbia down to 28th street.
In these last lingering days of summer weather, Labor Day be damned, I say extend the season with Premium Rush. A chase movie that is much better than I ever expected. It will be a nice palate cleanser before the onslaught of heavy topic films in the rush to Oscar.