DIRECTED BY David Koepp
STARS Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon
Even if Premium Rush hadn't had me at "Hello," it certainly would have had me at "Forrest J Ackerman."
A movie built around a bicycle messenger is a risky venture — as an adrenaline-pumper, it sounds about as promising as Driving Miss Daisy — but writer-director David Koepp invests in our need for speed right from the first frame. Employing stylish graphics and a muscular shooting style, he immediately thrusts us into the story of Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a New York City bike messenger who gets high off his breakneck job. Enter Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), a corrupt cop who simply must obtain what's inside the envelope that Wilee is presently carrying to an unassuming shop in Chinatown. Since most of Bobby's actions are illegal, he's forced to provide a fake name whenever anybody asks him to identify himself. So he goes with Forrest J Ackerman.
The late, great Ackerman — a childhood hero, it should be noted (see our story on Ackerman here) — was the editor of the influential magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, and it's just the sort of pop-culture factoid one can expect from Koepp, whose previous credits as a screenwriter include such exciting franchise-starters as Jurassic Park, Spider-Man and Mission: Impossible. But Koepp (sharing scripting duties here with John Kamps) has more on his mind than in-joke asides. Despite its A-list credentials, Premium Rush feels like a B-movie beauty, smaller in scale than its summer brethren yet outclassing most of them with giddy irreverence. It's similar in that respect to 2009's A Perfect Getaway, another under-the-radar thriller and one that sadly never found its audience. This new picture is even better, full of plot pirouettes yet still managing to get on and off the screen in a lean 90 minutes. Gordon-Levitt again demonstrates that he's one of Young Hollywood's best hopes, Shannon is terrific as a dirty cop whose quirky sense of humor remains intact even as his desperation mounts, and rising actresses Dania Ramirez and Jamie Chung excel in roles pivotal to the plot.
If anyone wants to end the summer with a bang, this beats even the fireworks.