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 later this year.