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Premium Rush Film Review

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Manhattan Serves as Backdrop for Adrenaline-Fueled Bike Thriller

Traffic is so congested in Manhattan nowadays, it's hard to see that terminally-gridlocked terrain as a viable setting for high-octane chase scenes. Yet, that is precisely what we have in Premium Rush, an adrenaline-fueled adventure revolving around the derring-do of daring bike messengers who dart between cars and dodge pedestrians to make their deliveries.

At the film's point of departure, we're introduced to several staff members of a bonded company called Security Courier. Employee of the Year Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Columbia Law School graduate who prefers this liberating line of work to being stuck sitting behind a desk in a business suit every day.

Similarly, his gorgeous girlfriend, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), sees it as a refreshing alternative to waiting tables in a restaurant. However, one hazard of the job for her is having to fend off the sleazy overtures of fellow messenger, Manny (Wole' Parks), and of their equally-flirtatious dispatcher, Raj (Aasif Mandvi).

Nonetheless, this picture is more about non-stop action than romance, and the fun starts soon after Wilee accepts an assignment to transport an envelope designated "Premium Rush" from his alma mater to Chinatown ASAP. But before he even has a chance to leave campus, a gentleman (Michael Shannon) identifying himself as the Dean of Students asks to take possession of the parcel.

Wilee's suspicion is aroused when Dean Ackerman inexplicably goes ballistic in response to a polite explanation that it can only be handed over to the addressee. And that concern escalates to fear when the guy starts frothing at the mouth and gives hot pursuit by auto, running lights and driving against traffic.

The pedal-pushing protagonist gives the creep the slip, but the plot thickens further when he stops at the police station to report the attempted theft. There, he discovers that he's on his own because Ackerman, lo and behold, is ostensibly a crooked police officer with a hidden agenda and a pecuniary interest in hijacking the package.

Unfolding like a compelling cross of Crank (2006) and 16 Blocks (2006), Premium Rush proceeds from this juncture forward at a breakneck pace that doesn't give you a chance to pause to consider whether what you're watching is even credible. But nothing else matters when such an urgent roller coaster ride, or should I say bike ride, manages to keep you on the edge of your seat for its dizzying duration.

The Big Apple as the backdrop for a Tour de Gridlock!

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for violence, ethnic slurs and profanity.

In English and Mandarin with subtitles.

Running time: 91 minutes

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Trailer for Premium Rush:

Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the African-American Film Critics Association, and the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee. Contact him through NewsBlaze. Read more reviews by Kam Williams.

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