Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon. Written by David Koepp, John Kamps. Directed by David Koepp. 14A. 91 min. Opens Aug 24
The hero of Premium Rush is an adrenaline-junkie bike courier with the Looney Tunes name of Wilee, which brings to mind a certain Coyote. But in David Koep’s chase-movie scheme, he’s more of a Roadrunner figure, confidently meep-meeping his way through New York City in a faster gear than crooked-cop who’s pursuing him (played by Michael Shannon, who seems to be acting a cross between Gary Oldman’s demonic detective in The Professional and The Big Bad Wolf).
If the circumstances of the pursuit are ultimately way too complicated and elaborate, the filmmaking is agreeably stripped down. Premium Rush has the relentless left-to-right motion of a classic side-scrolling video game—the best analogy would be too call it a junior-varsity version of Crank, without the ferocious pop-culture satire but driven by a similarly propulsive narrative engine. If Wilee stops, he gets caught, and if he gets caught, the movie is over: Good thing he’s so resourceful with that two-wheeler.
Wiley’s intermittent voice-overs about the science and philosophy of curb-side blade-running, however, are just so much Zen-macho twaddle—even if the character is defined by the fact that he doesn’t use brakes. Thankfully, Levitt is a fabulous physical presence. Clad in a bright red jersey (the costume-department equivalent of a “danger” sign), he sets his jaw and pistons his legs as intently as Shannon pulls faces and delivers some wicked dialogue. Both stars must have been exhausted from the workout, and still they give the film energy to spare. Premium Rush doesn’t really go anywhere, but at least it gets there in a hurry.