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Premium Rush Blu-ray Review

Premium Rush (2012) movie poster Premium Rush

Theatrical Release: August 24, 2012 / Running Time: 91 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: David Koepp / Writers: David Koepp, John Kamps

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Wilee), Michael Shannon (Detective Bobby Monday), Dania Ramirez (Vanessa), Jamie Chung (Nima), Wolι Parks (Manny), Aasif Mandvi (Raj), Henry O (Mr. Leung), Christopher Place (Bike Cop)

Buy Premium Rush from Amazon.com: Blu-ray • DVD • Instant Video

It's easy to forget that Joseph Gordon-Levitt began acting as a child. Gordon-Levitt has remained steadily employed from around the age of 10. Though much of the early work was high profile (Angels in the Outfield, "3rd Rock from the Sun", 10 Things I Hate About You), he never was elevated to heartthrob or superstar.
That may have eased the notoriously difficult transition to adult actor, which Gordon-Levitt weathered with hardly a lull. Each of the past few years has felt like a breakout one for the young veteran actor, who has managed to pick one strong project after another in acclaimed films as varied as (500) Days of Summer, Inception, and 50/50. 2012 has cemented the actor's status. He provided critical support in two of the year's biggest films, The Dark Knight Rises and Lincoln. As leading man, meanwhile, he took on the futuristic sci-fi flick Looper and the contemporary action film Premium Rush.

Premium Rush relied most heavily on Gordon-Levitt, his only recognizable co-star being the esteemed indie presence Michael Shannon. It sputtered at the box office, grossing a measly $20 million on a $35 million budget in its late summer release. Still, the film extended Gordon-Levitt's streak of critical success, as one of his five and counting consecutive movies to be certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes while getting wide theatrical release.

"Premium Rush" stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as fast and nimble New York City bike messenger Wilee.

Gordon-Levitt stars as Wilee, a New York City bike messenger. While acknowledging that there are a number of viable alternatives (from the big name shippers to e-mail), Wilee explains in voiceover that his line of work persists for those occasions when you need something hand-delivered immediately and cannot afford to deal with traffic.

Avoiding traffic is an art form for bike messengers and, as you can imagine, an extremely dangerous one. Wilee rides by instinct, weaving fast and furiously between cars and around pedestrians. His bike has no brakes and there is no margin for error. The movie slows down his thought process for a savvy visualization, as Wilee sees the maneuvers that will hurl him into a windshield or cause him to topple over a stroller and opts instead for a safer move still fraught with peril. It's a stressful existence that Wilee, a law school graduate who hasn't taken the bar exam, deems preferable to wearing a suit and working in an office. From the numerous nearly first-person views the film gives, it certainly seems like an exciting and exhilarating profession, especially from the safety of your couch.

What kind of trouble and adventure could a bike messenger get into on the job? Premium Rush ponders such a scenario, when a sketchy man named Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon, naturally) tries to reclaim a parcel that a young Chinese woman (Jamie Chung) has entrusted Wilee to deliver. Wilee resists the story he's fed and eludes the man, but that is hardly the end. Turns out that Bobby Monday is a corrupt police officer with a taste for Chinatown gambling. Monday sees the Chinese woman's envelope (holding an enigmatic ticket) as his only way out of troublesome debt.

Michael Shannon plays Bobby Monday, a dirty cop who wants what Wilee has. Nima (Jamie Chung) has much riding on the delivery that the movie sees through.

The meaning of the mysterious ticket becomes clear, but though it is ostensibly motivating the plot, it is a typical MacGuffin of minimal interest to us. That isn't problematic because Premium Rush sustains interest in its creatively staged, nearly non-stop chase sequences. Wilee has a conflicted ex-girlfriend colleague (Dania Ramirez) and a rival messenger (Wolι Parks) who flesh out his character some. But almost all of it plays out with bicycle wheels turning with speed, suspense, and stakes all riding high. The conflict between Wilee and Monday is compelling, especially since Gordon-Levitt and Shannon give their adversaries depth. It is easy to envision the film falling flat without the involvement of such accomplished actors. In a way, the two leads are out of place, surrounded by a supporting cast seasoned in soap operas, music videos, and reality television.
Their welcome presence makes the intrigue in David Koepp and John Kamps' screenplay easy to notice and appreciate.

This film is the third collaboration of Koepp and Kamps, having previously shared writing credit on Zathura and Ghost Town. As on Ghost Town, Koepp, who has a long and impressive writing filmography of his own (credits include Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, Mission: Impossible, and War of the Worlds), also directs. He doesn't do that very often, this being only his fifth theatrical directing credit in nearly twenty years, but clearly he has a knack for it, taking a hit-or-miss concept and making it work.

Not everything about Premium Rush works, but it generates almost constant goodwill as it jumps around chronologically with purpose and lets us into this unusual world that we know exists but do not give much thought. The film's design could easily feel gimmicky and tiresome, but it avoids that with enough inspired turns (both literally and figuratively). One of the film's greatest achievements is to take this unbelievably eventful day of police pursuit, romantic baggage and personal upheaval and make it authentic, unfolding almost in real time on a familiar-feeling late afternoon and early evening. What could and maybe even should be mindless high-octane escapism instead has just enough heart and flavor to secure our emotional investment and keep us smiling.

Watch clips from Premium Rush:
Wrong Way Chase • "Move Your SUV" • "Brakes are Death" • Trailer

Premium Rush Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English, French, Portuguese), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Service, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Chinese, French, Indonesian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish
Release Date: December 21, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50) / Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Also available on DVD ($30.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

In what should surprise no one, Premium Rush boasts excellent picture and sound on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 presentation favors reality over visual effects, relying heavily on what appears to be quite daring cycling from Gordon-Levitt himself. That is to its advantage and the warm, deft cinematography holds up well in this practically flawless transfer. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack also commands notice with its terrific use of ambient noise. Cars and their horns whiz by us with crystal clarity to nice effect.

David Koepp directs Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "The Starting Line." "Behind the Wheels" shows us how the abundant cycling was shot.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Bonus features are the area where this Blu-ray is most likely to disappoint. No commentary or deleted scenes are offered. We do, however, get two high-def making-of featurettes of appropriate length.

"The Starting Line" (9:30) discusses the project's origins,
the consulted and dramatized bike messenger community, casting the lead roles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's training, and the dangerous nature of filming.

"Behind the Wheels" (12:51) focuses on the filming of sequences on real Manhattan streets, with comments on techniques, challenges, visual effects, and stunt doubles.

The disc opens with Sony Entertainment Network and UltraViolet promos, followed by trailers for Looper and Total Recall. The trailers are also accessible from the Previews menu along with ones for Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning and Seven Psychopaths. Sadly, Premium Rush's own trailer is absent.

The menu plays action clips and "Cash Cab"-type map imagery with bike tire marks under the listings on occasionally above the montage. Like other Sony Blu-rays, this one resumes playback and supports bookmarks.

In-case inserts provide your codes for Sony Rewards and for accessing the complimentary UltraViolet stream and download that is now a standard Sony inclusion.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon square off in the bike messenger action film "Premium Rush."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Premium Rush is a solid action film that is about as good as it can be. That doesn't mean it's perfect must-see cinema, only that it impressively realizes almost all of its tricky goals to regularly entertain and excite. While Sony's Blu-ray is basic, the outstanding picture and sound thoroughly satisfy.

Buy Premium Rush from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New: Beasts of the Southern Wild • 10 Years • Francis Ford Coppola: 5-Film Collection • Dick Tracy • Heavyweights • Les Misιrables
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The Dark Knight Rises • 10 Things I Hate About You • Treasure Planet • The Lookout • Angels in the Outfield • 3rd Rock from the Sun: S1
Directed by David Koepp: Ghost Town | Written by David Koepp: Spider-Man • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull • Angels & Demons
Michael Shannon: Take Shelter • My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done • The Runaways • Revolutionary Road • Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans
Drive • Drive Angry • Faster • The Mechanic • Shooter • The Hangover Part II • Chinatown

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Reviewed December 19, 2012.



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