In 1992’s Warner Brothers film Under Siege famous WB animated characters are referenced when the evil William Strannix (played by Tommy Lee Jones) calls himself the “Roadrunner” and his stolen submarine which is supposed to carry their contraband is dubbed the “Coyote.”
Twenty years later 31 year old former child star Joseph Gordon-Levitt (1991 Dark Shadows series, Quantum Leap, Roseanne, The Juror), fresh out of his role as Blake in the Dark Knight Rises (still raking in millions as Premium Rush premieres) does a more than credible job of playing an obsessive/compulsive bike messenger named “Wilee” (after Looney Tunes character Wile E. Coyote) though this film is distributed by Sony/Columbia…
David Koepp is a hugely successful screenwriter with amazingly successful films to his credit – Spider-man, Panic Room, Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible, War of the Worlds etc – has eight films to his credit as director, including 1999’s A Stir of Echoes, a ghost story featuring Kevin Bacon that was released a month after The Sixth Sense. Now that you have the background it’s nice to tell you that Premium Rush is Koepp at the top of his game, coming up with a rather interesting update of Keanu Reeves 1994 classic “Speed” eighteen years later. Sandra Bullock as Reeves “love interest” was as forced as Gordon-Levitt’s temporarily strained pairing with Dania Ramirez (she of The Sopranos, X-Men, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but when director Jan DeBont made over 350 million worldwide on a 30 million dollar budget it certainly wasn’t the lack of chemistry between the co-starts that brought in the dough, it was the action, the drama, the intensity. (Speed 2, the 1997 sequel, by the way, brought in only 160m for DeBont on a budget of 160m, oh well…)
It’s the out-of-control bicycling, the insane competition between fellow bike messengers Wilee and Manny (Wolé Parks) and the camera’s ability to capture these public menaces as they wreak havoc on Manhattan causing accidents galore and riling the ire of the police that the movie goer has come to see. Koepp, and Gordon-Levitt, do not disappoint as the intrigue and amped-up mania is kept front and center. There is the anti-chemistry with antagonist Detective Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon a.k.a. Agent Nelson Van Alden in Boardwalk Empire and General Zod in the upcoming Man of Steel Superman reboot) and Gordon-Levitt with their role reversal – Wilee actually playing the Roadrunner to Detective Monday”s Wile E. Coyote, if you will. Detective Monday is no Joe Friday – more like a sleazy second cousin to Ray Liotta in one of his many bad-boy roles, perhaps Liotta’s role of Paul Krendler in 2001’s Hannibal as just one example.
On a modest budget of 35 million in 2012 dollars (when the original Speed was cut, as stated, at 30 mill in 1994 dollars), Premium Rush should do well. Gordon Levitt is on his way to being a big, big star and he’s really the only recognizable “name” in this feature (outside of veteran actor Anthony Chisholm – “Burr Redding” in the TV series OZ – as Tito here). If you’re in to non-stop action, spills and chills, the Koepp/Gordon Levitt team have given you just that. It’s better than both Speed movies with a multitude of moving parts to hold your attention.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.