Thursday, August 30, 2012

Premium Rush: A Bike Rider's Review

A new movie, Premium Rush, casts Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a Manhattan bike messenger, gives him a MacGuffin that a bad guy wants and hijinks ensue. I'm a sucker for any movie that has bikes in it, so today Christine and I went to the theater and watched Premium Rush.

I'll try to keep this review spoiler-free, so I'm not going to give a play by play of the plot. There actually is a plot but it mostly serves to drive about an hour's worth of really good bike chase sequences. Both Christine and I really liked the movie. We lived for years in White Plains, NY and got into Manhattan often and NYC in this movie feels like the real thing. I know a lot of bike messengers, I've ridden fixies for years and I've even raced in some alley cats and I can honestly say that the folks who made this movie got the biking right.

Fixies don't coast and unlike in some movies (Quicksilver, I'm looking at you!) in Premium Rush they never coast. Car doors pop open, traffic sucks, there's a lot of skidding. There's a lot of very quick maneuvering. There's a bunch of really good camera work. One neat film technique slows everything down and shows the character Wilee (like the Coyote) thinking through the various lines through crowded traffic. These thought experiments play out in crashes until he finds the line that just makes it through.

You should understand that this is movie where the scruffy fixie-riding bike messenger is the hero. The really bad guy drives a car. The cops are not the guys there to help you. In the scale from good to bad, fixies are better than gears, steel is better than carbon. Lycra is used as an insult. (However Christine noted that it's a movie so of course the female messenger is wearing lycra!) But at least the sorta-ex girlfriend of the hero actually does some damn good riding in this movie.

While it would've been nice if the female characters had a bit more to do in the film and you would think that they could have come up with at least one cop who wasn't corrupt or inept, the movie manages to slam along nicely. The characters actually talk and think like bike folk. Real messengers and riders (folks like Austin Horse and Danny MacAskill) worked as extras and stunt doubles on the film but you never think "oh that's a double," you're too busy being amazed.

Premium Rush is good summer fun. It'll get your heart pumping. I enjoyed it and so did Christine.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA


PsySal said...

Aha, thanks for that!

I was all ready to ignore this movie but the fact that they get the bike-riding-in-traffic right somehow makes me want to see it really badly. I don't know why!

Ἀντισθένης said...

Good to hear.

"You would think that they could have come up with at least one cop who wasn't corrupt or inept."

Well, as a Torontonian, it sounds like cops to me.

Unknown said...

I always laugh at how much work the Foley people must have put in making all those freewheel sounds in Quicksilver.

The truth is, it may not have been a mistake. I could imagine an executive thinking it would be better to have the sound than not because it would be what most people were expecting.

adventure! said...

I think my favorite thing about the existence of this movie is hearing how your traditional movie reviewer struggles to define "fixie."

I heard one where they define a fixed gear as a bike without gears or brakes. Yes, I know some fixies don't have brakes, but c'mon.

My favorite was one reviewer referred to it is a "fixed chain" bike.

Dan O. said...

The script is absolutely horrendous and the cast tries their best with it, but it just ends up making this flick a very goofy, but somewhat fun action film that has a new take on the whole genre. Good review Kent.

Anonymous said...

We had to look up the name of the great actor who plays the bad cop--Michael Shannon. Loved to watch him search a bag! He's like a nicotine fit without the cigarette.

And, Jake, the Chinatown scenes and actors were great.

Also liked the alternate bike routes scenes.

The plot creaked loudly in parts, lots of happy stereotyping, and the representation of bike culture a little mixed, but there were long stretches of movie goodness. Certainly one of the better bike movies, which isn't saying much of course.

Alex said...

Sound really good, thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say the script is horrendous.

It's a more or less paint by the numbers action thriller, sure.

I don't think anyone would hate it, but for cyclists it's fun. It's kind of relentlessly hipsterish in it's almost Amish like rejection of any cycling technology that predates the 1940s, but it was fun.

Same Day Courier Service said...

A good film to watch! A story that tells the world that bike messengers can also be heroes too. :)