Movie review: “Premium Rush”

From the August 23, 2012 edition

“Premium Rush” would feel like just one of those movies exploring a hip subculture — in this case, New York City bicycle messengers — if it weren’t for it’s two lead actors.

First, you’ve got Joseph Gordon-Levitt, one of the best young actors working today. Second, you’ve got a scene-stealing Michael Shannon — who I thought deserved an Oscar for his performance in “Take Shelter” last year.

These guys are in the sort-of cheesy bike movie with the eye-rollingly cheesy name? Yep, and they really make it a lot of fun.

Wilee (Gordon-Levitt) is a devil-may-care hotshot Manhattan bike messenger (SRSLY?). He’s a fixed-gear, no-brakes kinda guy, and he navigates the streets like a manic salmon swimming upstream.

He’s got a bike messenger love interest and a bike messenger nemesis — who uses multiple gears and brakes! It’s all very bike messenger-y, you see.

Wilee has an apparently simple delivery go haywire when a mystery man named — wait for it — Bobby Monday (Shannon) tries to intercept Wilee’s delivery through dubious means.

“Rush” has the light and airy feel of a popcorn movie from the ’80s — and the fun and cheesiness that comes with that.

The narrative tightly focuses on a few hours and bounces through some flashback business. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but there’s good use made of the technique. It lends itself to the breakneck pace of the cycle action.

Gordon-Levitt is, as usual, charming and breezy in the lead. He did quite a bit of his own riding, too.

But it’s Shannon that makes me recommend this one, despite some corniness around the film’s edges. It’s the sort of menacing dude he’s known for playing, but I could watch that all day. He’s even funny!

Bike enthusiasts will get an extra kick, most likely, but this is a fun ride for anyone.