Premium Rush

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film is not shown in chronological order, and contains numerous flash-forward and flash-back cuts, indicated with an overlaid digital clock showing the time advancing rapidly forward/backward to the next scene. In chronological order the events are:

Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a New York City bicycle messenger alongside his ex-girlfriend, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez). Her roommate, Nima (Jamie Chung), delivers $50,000 that she has saved for two years to Mr. Leung (Henry O), a Chinese hawaladar, in exchange for a ticket that she must deliver to Sister Chen, buying a place for Nima’s son and mother in one of Sister Chen’s ships that smuggle people from China to the United States.

Mr. Lin, a local loan shark, learns of the ticket and how whoever returns it to Mr. Leung can collect Nima’s money. He then approaches Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), a gambling-addicted NYPD officer who owes him money, offering to clear Monday’s debt if Monday gets him the ticket. Monday begins searching for Nima, who decides to hire Wilee to deliver the envelope with the ticket to Sister Chen at 7 P.M. After Wilee leaves, Nima is confronted by Monday, who coerces her into revealing that Wilee has the ticket and handing over the delivery receipt. After Monday leaves, Vanessa finds Nima, and learns the contents of the envelope.

Monday catches up with Wilee before he leaves the campus where Nima lives and threatens him for the ticket. Wilee escapes and heads to the police station to report Monday, only to find out he’s a police officer, and hides in the bathroom, where he opens the envelope and finds the ticket.

After he escapes the station, Wilee angrily tells his dispatcher, Raj (Aasif Mandvi), that he is returning the package so that someone else can drop it off. Returning to Nima’s college, Wilee leaves the envelope, which is picked up by his rival, Manny (Wolé Parks). Before Manny picks it up, however, Monday calls the dispatch to redirect the delivery to a different address.

As he is about to leave the college after returning the envelope, Wilee runs into Nima. He confronts her about the ticket, and she reveals the truth. Guilt-ridden, Wilee tries to catch up to Manny, who refuses to give Wilee his drop. They race each other and in the process, are chased by a bike cop who had earlier tried to arrest Wilee. As they approach Monday’s location, the bike cop tackles Manny out of his bike and arrests him. Vanessa, who learns of Monday’s trickery and races over to warn Manny, appears, grabs Manny’s bag and gives it to Wilee.

As they were about to escape, however, Wilee is run over by an oncoming taxi. He is put in an ambulance with Monday, while his damaged bike is taken to an impound lot, with the envelope hidden in the handlebars. Monday beats Wilee into offering to give Monday the envelope in exchange for his bike.

Wilee tells Monday that the envelope is in Manny’s bag, and Monday leaves to search it, while Wilee meets with Vanessa in the impound lot. She gives him the envelope, which she had retrieved, and he escapes on a stolen bike. Monday, realizing Wilee has tricked him, pursues Wilee to Sister Chen’s place. Wilee’s stolen bike breaks and he steals the bike belonging to the cop who chased him throughout the movie. Meanwhile, Nima calls Mr. Leung for help. He deploys his enforcer, the Sudoku Man, to help her.

As Wilee reaches Chinatown, he is confronted by Monday, who is threatening to kill him. However, Vanessa arrives with other messengers, dispatched by Raj, and delays Monday, giving Wilee time to deliver the ticket to Sister Chen, who calls the Captain of her ship and tells him to allow Nima’s family inside. Outside, Monday is confronted by the Sudoku Man, who shoots him in the head and leaves. Nima arrives, after a phone call from her mother confirming that they got on the ship, and meets with Wilee and Vanessa.


A movie about bike messengers in New York City. Who on Earth would actually find that interesting? Apparently, quite a few people. Premium Rush went on to do pretty decent business when it was released, though I do think many, including myself, looked over it because of its subject material and when it was released.

What is this about?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a New York City bike messenger whose routine “premium rush” run turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan after a dirty cop (Michael Shannon) becomes desperate to get his hands on the package.

What did I like?

Adrenaline. There is no way you can sell a film like this without amping up the action. The film does exactly that by showcasing some truly exciting bike chases through the crowded streets of NYC. There is nothing like some fast paced action to make you forget about the bad taste the last film you watched put in your mouth.

Bad guy. I still tired of cops being the bad guys, but in this case where Michael Shannon is playing one that just got into some gambling debt, I let it slide. Shannon is great in this role, as he brings the crazy, almost cartoonishness to this bad guy turn. Add in his naturally crazy eyes, and you have the makings for a truly memorably villain.

Last act. I can’t get over how fast this film flies. The pacing is great, but the last act is masterfully awesome! With almost nonstop movement, as well as breakneck bike riding, and the triumphant resolution to the plot, it is the perfect way to bring things to a satisfying conclusion.

What didn’t I like?

Rival. It makes perfect sense that our hero has a rival. I’m perfectly fine with that but, it seems to be that it might have worked better if said rival had been part of the nefarious plot to pilfer this package, especially since he actually had it in his possession! I’m no screenwriter, but doesn’t it seem like that would be a great twist?

Triangle. Maybe it was just me, but this love triangle that they had going on wasn’t working, especially in this one scene where Manny suddenly tells (the insanely hot) Vanessa that it was a good thing she broke up with Wilee. WTF?!? First off, how do you just come out of nowhere with that, and secondly, why are all up in her business?

Character development. With all the fast paced action and impressive bike riding skills and stunts going on, you would think they’d have taken a few minutes to flesh out the characters. As it is, the audience has no connection to any of them, save for maybe some sympathy for the so-called victim, but that’s only because she had to leave her baby in China and they weren’t allowing her to bring him here. That kind of sad story is sure to bring about some kind of feelings amongst the audience.

Premium Rush is one of the surprise films of 2012. It was very-well written, acted, and received, though it may still have ended up overlooked. That being said, I totally enjoyed it, despite a few fairly minor flaws. Do I recommend it? Sure, I mean, come on! How often can you say that you’ve watched an exciting movie about bike messengers?

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

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