Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)–as in Chuck Jones’ well-known cartoon coyote “Wile E.”–is a Columbia University law-school grad who pedals a fixed-gear bike for Manhattan’s Security Couriers. “Premium Rush” is the express rate of $30 he will get for delivering order #2231970 to “snakehead” Sister Chen at 127 Doyers Street. In pursuit is Officer Roselli, a diligent NYPD bike cop enforcing traffic codes, and dirty 21st Precinct Detective Robert Monday (Michael Shannon), a four-wheeler in a suit with “impulse control issues.” Monday is bad at calculating odds on the dominoes when playing Pai Gow. He owes a lot to bad people. But one of them tips him to a $50,000 chit in transit through Chinatown’s underground hawala economy. Only in the third reel of this two-wheel chaser does Wilee figure out what’s at stake, besides his ribs and spokes. “Premium Rush” is about a young man fulfilling himself in a frontier-style career with side stories of a career-imploding cop hit with Chinese phone books and a Chinese immigrant chasing her American dream with three jobs. Plus high-velocity vehicular numbers technically advised by the president of the New York Bike Messenger Foundation. “Casting the bikes was essential,” says director and co-writer David Koepp in the press notes. “It’s like casting the horses in a Western.” Koepp earlier directed and co-wrote “Ghost Town” (2008), “Secret Window” (2004), “Stir of Echoes” (1999) and “The Trigger Effect” (1996). They deliver a serviceable vocational adventure. With Jamie Chung, Dania Ramirez, Wolé Parks, Aasif Mandvi, Derek Ambrosi, Christopher Place. 91m. (Bill Stamets)
“Premium Rush” opens Friday.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.