Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a bike messenger, must deliver an envelope from Columbia University all the way down to Chinatown. That task sounds easier said than done when a corrupt cop (Michael Shannon) demands him to hand over the envelope, but he refuses to do so and, instead, peddles away from him on his bike without brakes or gears. Cue many lengthy chases down the streets of Manhattan as the cop desperately tries hunt down Wilee for that precious envelope.
What precisely is the content of that envelope? Why does the cop want it? Why does Nima (Jamie Chung) need it to be delivered to Chinatown to begin with? Those are among the questions that writer/director David Koepp and co-writer John Kamps answer rather early on through a series of flashbacks from the vantage points of both Nima and the cop. Unfortunately, once the answers rise to the surface, there's nothing in terms of surprises to hold your interest. The plot grows increasingly inane and implausible, but that's somewhat excusable in a popcorn movie that's just intended to entertain. It would have been helpful, though, had there been at least 1 remotely intelligent character who's not over-the-top or perhaps some more background info about Wilee to humanize him. The more you use your brain to watch Premium Rush, the more you realize just how silly and cartoonish all of it actually is. In fact, most of the film feels like a Road Runner cartoon or video game which starts out fun and exciting, but has diminishing returns because as it become increasingly tedious and uninspired.
What's left to keep you marginally entertained are the many chase sequences as Wilee zooms down streets using his impeccable bike-riding skills. The camera moves fast and so will your heartbeat for at least the first few chases. By the 10th chase sequence, you might find yourself rolling your eyes while wishing that there were more to the film than just chases. Moreover, Michael Shannon makes the most out of his one-dimensional role and seems to be having a lot of fun onscreen. It's diverting to watch him because of his tongue-in-cheek performance---if he were the protagonist, perhaps Premium Rush would be more of a guilty pleasure. At least Koepp keeps the running time down to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Had it been any longer, it would have been tortuous and exhausting.
R2B: Return to Base