By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 4)


Michael Shannon, Unleashed strikes me as a much better title for this movie as the talented actor truly is the highlight.  It’s not that I didn’t have fun watching the expertly filmed and edited, high speed bicycle scenes and not that I didn’t enjoy watching the acting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt who seems to fit most roles quite comfortably (forget about G.I. JOE). Shannon just about steals and owns every single scene he’s in.  Granted, certain moments, due to cringe-worthy writing and Shannon’s tendency for over-the-top antics, did grate on me, but if I had to name a single reason to spend money on this movie, Shannon is that name and wow, he truly has a talent for performing emotionally unhinged characters well.

For those who were alive and aware of cinema in the 1980s, the Kevin Bacon vehicle, Quicksilver, should have come to mind when first seeing a promo or trailer for Premium Rush.  Quite honestly, this modern day story of daredevil bicycle messengers shamelessly rips-off several elements from the 1986 film.  In Quicksilver, Bacon’s character once successfully traded in the stock market, but then takes a huge gamble and suffers a major loss.  He trades in his suit for the bicycle and becomes a courier on the treacherous streets of San Francisco.  In Premium Rush, Wilee (Gordon-Levitt) once had the potential of becoming a successful lawyer, but cannot see himself in a suit, stuck in an office.  Instead he opts for a fast speed and dangerous life as a bicycle courier in the streets of Manhattan.  When a highly valuable package comes into his possession for delivery, a mysterious man named Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon) appears and desperately tries to take it from Wilee.  He is so desperate that he is willing to kill Wilee, just to get his hands on that package.

Premium Rush does deliver high speed thrills, but also suffers from silly writing and dialogue that annoyed me from time to time.  The script by David Koepp and John Kamps leaves much to be desired, especially for a movie that boasts superbly talented actors like Gordon-Levitt and Shannon.  The plot plays out as expected, but does build the tension and suspense nicely.  Koepp, who also directs here, working with cinematographer Mitchell Admundsen, editors Derek Ambrosi and Jill Savitt, and an outstanding team of effects artists and stunt people, does some awesome work creating these sequences without looking terribly artificial and adds a fun twist to them.

Besides Shannon and Gordon-Levitt, the cast included Dania Ramirez as Wilee’s love interest Vanessa, Aasif Mandvi as Raj, the manager of the courier service, Wole Parks as Manny, Wilee’s rival, and Jamie Chung as Nima, Vanessa’s roommate and friend.  All perform adequately, but as I stated above the show belongs mainly to Michael Shannon. It is a pleasure to watch Gordon-Levitt in the lead here, but at the same time, the script doesn’t really give him much to do with this role.  The writing truly is the Achilles heel of this film.  Some of the jokes and humor get over-played a tad, and as sharp and witty a character Wilee should have been, he gets some really lame quips and lines.  Shannon’s character Monday has a few of these as well, but the volatile uncertainty of this character had me anticipating what Shannon would do next.  I feel his performance was a bit too unrestrained occasionally, and could have used some tighter direction from Koepp.

Nevertheless, Shannon’s talents as an actor are undeniable.  When he gets it right in Premium Rush, he does it oh so brilliantly.  Because I actually had fun watching this film, despite its obvious flaws, I will recommend it.  I would not pay for a full priced ticket, but I do believe it is worth at most, an afternoon trip to the cinema.

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