|'The malevolent man in a Mazda pursuing JGL proves to be none other than Michael Shannon, here on absolute top, Nicholas Cage-influenced, 'give-it-all-you've-got-even-if-the-film-is-rubbish', form.'|
A B-movie about bike riders needs spicing up and writer/director David Koepp clearly knows it, such is the preponderance of film-making tricks he includes in Premium Rush, a film in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt on a cycle with no brakes is not quite enough to hold your attention throughout. Fast-forward, rewind, zooms into what looks like a version of Google maps, a twisting 'one day' structure that starts somewhere near the middle; no stone is left unturned in the two-wheeled pursuit of interest-by-filmcraft.
In a film over-burdened by visual 'flair', artistically, it is the little things that count. The malevolent man in a Mazda pursuing JGL proves to be none other than Michael Shannon, here on absolute top, Nicholas Cage-influenced, 'give-it-all-you've-got-even-if-the-film-is-rubbish', form. It's actually a Cage comparison that most immediately springs to mind. Shannon's demented Bobby Monday is one pipe hit away from Cage's Terence McDonagh in Bad Lieutenant, a film Shannon also featured in, and his presence perks things up noticeably whenever he shouts his way on screen.
Monday though is almost too strong for this sort of throwaway offering. Wilee (Levitt) might be able to peddle really quickly, but is he actually a match on any level for an NYPD detective, with a serious case of mob debt? A late scene, where Monday is pushed around, is the equivalent of a very angry dragon being attacked by a horde of flies. Surely a blast of hot breath and the problem goes away?
At ninety-one minutes, there's pretty much no time to get bored but Koepp does seem to try to make you turn off in other ways just in case. The crumbly plot inevitably weaves in a plethora of gangland clichés, from people-smuggling to underground gambling dens around every corner, whilst those in support of Levitt and Shannon (Jamie Chung and Wolé Parks in particular) are near-faceless non-entities of acting awfulness.
So, the short answer then, is clearly that Premium Rush is largely rubbish, a mess of bad performances, film-making over-exuberance and a plot picked from the shelf. And yet... There is, as most aficionados of the sub-genre will tell you, something resolutely attractive about intentional or unintentional B-movies. It's not entirely clear which one of the categories this is, and if it had have known, if may have been better, but that aside, there are worse ways to pass ninety minutes, and genre fans will be rewarded by Shannon and one or two scripting smarts.