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
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