Copyright ©2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


A very different kind of drama also set on two wheels opens in theaters today. It's the story of a bike messenger who finds himself a wanted man. The movie is called "Premium Rush" and that's an appropriate title, says critic Bob Mondello.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: A character we have yet to meet flies through the air in slow motion on a busy New York street at the start of this movie. He's wearing a bike helmet, which is a good thing because, as The Who's "Baba O'Riley" pulses in the background and numbers come up on the screen telling us it's 6:33 p.m., he lands with a thud on the pavement.


MONDELLO: For a second or two, he lies there staring at a car careening towards him, a woman mouthing his name, a bike that lies crumpled at his side.

You might want to take those moments to catch your breath. You won't be offered many other chances because, a few seconds later, the film rewinds to leap back in time and tell you how he got there. Played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, this peddle-pumping courier is Wilee. His nickname is Coyote, though he's more the Roadrunner in this story, scooting up alleys and darting against traffic to get away from a corrupt cop who covets something he's picked up for delivery.


MICHAEL SHANNON: (as Bobby Monday) Hey, give me the envelope.


MONDELLO: The detective, who's both menacing and hapless as played by Michael Shannon, is at a real disadvantage driving a car. On Manhattan's jammed avenues, he can't begin to keep up with Wilee, who's given up a legal career for what he makes look like a contact sport, zipping through Manhattan on a stripped down fixie, a bike with no gear shift and no brakes.

In a flashback, Wilee's girlfriend, who's also a messenger, wonders if he has a death wish.


DANIA RAMIREZ: (as Vanessa) The way you ride...

GORDON-LEVITT: (as Wilee) You want to know what scares me - is what happened to my friends who just got out of law school. That is collective insanity. Compared with that, going down Broadway at 60 with no brakes is fine.

MONDELLO: Writer-director David Koepp, who's written dozens of action scripts from "Spiderman" going all the way back to "Jurassic Park," doesn't try as a director to freight any of this with meaning, apart from being the latest reason to think that Gordon Levitt's star is only going to burn brighter. "Premium Rush" is just a fun ride.

But the director does do a couple of things in it that are unusual for Tinsel Town. His 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 careening through at breakneck speed, not some studio back lot.

Gordon Levitt even did a lot of his own stunts and took his own falls, as an end credits outtake makes clear, all of which means "Premium Rush" offers a pretty decent end-of-summer adrenaline rush. I'm Bob Mondello.



You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.