For anyone wondering what you get when you cross bike-messenger derring-do, a dirty-cop bad guy and a ticking-clock plot line, the new Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie "Premium Rush" provides an answer: You get a pretty good time. Movie critics mostly agree that the film, which is directed and co-written by David Koepp and also stars Michael Shannon and Dania Ramirez, is an enjoyable end-of-summer action romp.
The Times' own Betsy Sharkey likens "Premium Rush" to the 1994 action thriller "Speed," but with a bicycle and an envelope subbing for the bomb-rigged bus: "Which actually doesn't sound like it would work at all as a tightly wound slice of street action, but it does, and in radically fresh ways." For one, Sharkey says, "The action is inventive, extensive and exciting, a bang-up job by cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen."
The film's two leads also hold their own. Gordon-Levitt, playing the intrepid bike messenger Wilee, has "toughened his inner core — both literally and figuratively — in a way that makes him a more formidable presence on-screen." Shannon, as the crooked Det. Bobby Monday, emits a "towering force-field" and is "fearsome even at a distance."
NPR's Bob Mondello finds "Premium Rush" to be lightweight but entertaining. He writes that Koepp "doesn't seem terribly anxious to freight any [the film] with meaning; 'Premium Rush' is just a fun ride." An undercurrent of authenticity helps to distinguish the film: "[Koepp's] New York actually looks like New York, with a largely Asian-, Hispanic-, and African-American cast. And that's really New York they're all careering through at breakneck speed, not some studio back lot."