Monday, October 8, 2012

3 shrt pgrphs: Premium Rush

2012, David Koepp -- in theatre

Remember back in the '80's when filmmakers and studios would try and capitalize on whatever extreme sporting trend was popular at the time - rollerskating, breakdancing, surfing, BMXing, motocross racing, skateboarding, rollerblading - by making a typically bad movie that tried to plumb the depths of the sport's subculture while infusing the script with as many cliches as possible.  I guess it's not limited only to the '80's, but it was certainly at its most prominent and most fromage-iest at that time.  Hell, Top Gun is the kingpin of the genre.  Looking back on any of those films and the nostalgia wafts off of them.  They weren't particularly good then either, but over the years, as the masses have come to embrace irony, one can see that in their badness, there is much entertainment to be had.  Premium Rush is ironic filmmaking in peak form.

David Koepp is known more for his scriptwriting than his directing, though this is far from his debut or most prominent effort.  Here he explores the subculture of bike couriers, specifically New York bike couriers who seem to be equal parts thrill jockeys and death courtiers.  He gets into the head of Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a law school dropout who is addicted to pedaling his fixed-wheel around the city 10 hours a day.  One day he accepts a package from an acquaintance only to find a very determined cop hot in pursuit.  The cop, one Bobby Monday (played with a delightful mania), is deep in dept with the Chinese mafia, and they've tipped him off to a score, Wilee's delivery, that will clean his slate. 

It's a cat-and-mouse game throughout the streets of New York, that's not altogether suspenseful, but instead bordering intentional silliness and a winking surreality, not far off from a Road Runner cartoon.  The script and dialogue teeter on purposefully awkward, but, from the balance of Gordon-Levitt's sincerity and Shannon's Al Pacino-esque scenery chewing, it winds up being quite enjoyable, even though there's little that punchy or keen about it.  The "future sight" that Wilee has, where time slows down and he predicts the outcome of multiple courses of actions until he hits the write one, is deliciously cheesy, a ridiculous yet wonderful conceit.  Premium Rush is in most respects a terrible movie... a trite story, rough performances from the majority of the supporting cast, and that whole '80's-style superficial look at a subculture nailed to a "T", but it's delivered with such zeal, so unapologetically that one can't help but be entertained by it all.