Premium Rush is the kind of action movie that always tumbles into theaters in late August: not enough star power or special-effects whizbang to run with the big dogs of summer, and not bad enough to bark its way straight to DVD.
If you've got 90 minutes to kill, there are certainly worse things you can do with them.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Wilee, a free-spirited New York bike messenger in a rocky relationship with fellow messenger Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) and in competition with another, Manny (Wole Parks), for Vanessa's affections and the company's primo deliveries. His life -- and, ultimately, his bicycle -- are turned upside down when he is given a seemingly innocuous envelope from Vanessa's friend, Nima (Jamie Chung), to take to Chinatown.
But a dirty cop, Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), wants what's in that envelope and is willing to do anything to get it -- including using his car to hunt a beleaguered bike messenger all over the traffic-choked streets of Manhattan.
When Premium Rush is on two wheels, it's as fun as careening downhill with no brakes. It's The French Connection with more handlebars than handguns.
Director David Koepp doesn't take things too seriously, showing off an adrenaline-pumped, flashy, fluid visual style that mimics the sensation of pumping pedals full-speed through city streets. The logistics of setting up some of these high-flying, tire-sliding stunts might've been enough to make even Jackie Chan think twice.
It's when Premium Rush parks the bike that it gets stuck in the mud. Monday is so single-mindedly sinister that it's a wonder he doesn't have a mustache to twirl. And the Wilee/Vanessa/Manny love triangle doesn't hold much interest -- though it is the spark for one of the movie's best chase scenes.
Unfortunately, unlike the dutiful Wilee, Premium Rush doesn't always deliver.