A bike courier in Manhattan probably flirts with death on any regular working day.
Even a skilled cyclist is like a fast rat in a New York maze, and that's the frenetic backdrop to Premium Rush, a speedy little story about a courier being pursued by a dirty cop.
Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a biking fanatic, a courier who knows the city inside and out and drives through it on a bike with no gears and no brakes. Wilee is a bit of a maniac on the road, but he's good at what he does.
One day he picks up an envelope for delivery and quickly discovers that he's carrying something important. Or maybe illegal. The point is, there's a guy (Michael Shannon, deranged as always) who'll do anything to get that envelope, and he proceeds to pursue Wilee all over New York City.
Premium Rush is little more than a 90-minute chase scene, but it's an often exhilarating ride thanks to adrenalin-triggering visuals. As the bicyclists weave in and out of traffic at a tremendous clip, there are scary sequences shot from Wilee's point of view, all cars and trucks and buses in your face; then there are animated bits that mimic Wilee's brain sussing out traffic at warp speed and mapping the fastest route around, through and sometimes over other vehicles.
His particular game of traffic dodgeball also includes the pedestrians, cab doors, baby buggies and dozens of other things that suddenly cross a bicycle's path -- and sometimes send a guy flying.
The film flips time around a bit to create additional visual interest, telling some parts of the tale and supplying more detail by turning back the clock a few hours.
Besides visual thrills, Premium Rush offers a hint of romance for Wilee and some good laughs that come out of the bike courier ethos. This is not a movie that's going to change the world, but it's a heckuva rush to experience.