Joseph Gordon-Levitt goes nowhere fast in “Premium Rush,” a chase movie coasting on bikes and borrowed ideas.
“I like to ride,” says Gordon-Levitt’s daredevil bike messenger Wilee. “Fixed gear. No brakes. Can’t stop. Don’t want to.”
Dodging cabs, pedestrians and the “gray business suit” future he ditched for the road, Wilee (as in Wile E. Coyote, apparently for his ability to walk from disaster unscathed) is the film’s two-wheeled answer to Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun” Maverick.
He even has his very own Iceman, a rival messenger named Manny (Wole Parks) who desires Wilee’s girlfriend (Dania Ramirez) and envies his hot dog status among New York’s peddling class.
Directed (and co-written with John Kamps) by David Koepp (“Ghost Town”), “Premium Rush” pads its Manhattan chase scenes and bike-on-car smash-ups with a standard-issue plot.
An unwitting Wilee must deliver a mysterious package for a friend, destination Chinatown, with a corrupt cop in pursuit (a comically ranting Michael Shannon, eyes popping and neck veins bulging).
With a traffic jam of coincidences and screenwriting contrivances, “Premium Rush” pulls out one chase-movie cliche after another. Horrified extras dive out of the way, ambling deliverymen block roads with their cargo (no large panes of glass, but close enough), a stroller-pushing mom risks a crosswalk.
It’s all impressively filmed, with much of the breakneck biking footage shot from the rider’s perspective (including the gruesome, imagined crash scenarios that race through Wilee’s head as he makes split-second, high-speed decisions in heavy traffic).
But the thrill of riding shotgun with the zig-zagging bikers exhausts itself halfway to Chinatown.
“Premium Rush,” from Columbia Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: ** (Evans)
If “Lawless” was the TV miniseries it should have been (and looks like), a few episodes just might have been terrific.
But this saga of Prohibition era moonshiners, the women they love and the revenuers they don’t is aimless and overlong, an uneasy mix of dusty authenticity and hipster cool.
Based very loosely on real events (as recounted and imagined in Matt Bondurant’s fictionalized family history “The Wettest County in the World”), “Lawless” stars Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke as the Virginia mountain’s bootlegging Bondurant brothers.
Already near legendary for their quality moonshine and seeming invincibility, the Bondurants refuse to bow down to gangsters (Gary Oldman, Dillinger-like) or share profits with the corrupt agent Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce, a dandified city slicker with shaved eyebrows and a sadistic streak.
“Lawless,” directed by John Hillcoat (“The Road”) from a script by musician Nick Cave, focuses mostly on Jack (LaBeouf), the sensitive brother with a knack for business.
Jack’s intermittent narration does little to hold the ambling, picaresque “Lawless” together, though his wooing of a local preacher’s daughter (Mia Wasikowska) gives the film heart.
With a Kevin Costner scowl, Hardy plays the gruff, domineering middle brother, and his reluctance with an admiring waitress (Jessica Chastain) seems contrived mostly as an homage to Warren Beatty’s impotent Clyde Barrow from “Bonnie and Clyde.”
Like that 1967 classic, “Lawless” is enamored of Depression style, though to much lesser effect. There’s a too-cool artsiness here, from the studied threadbare costumes and “Boardwalk Empire” haircuts, to a soundtrack that features bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley singing the Velvet Underground’s “White Light, White Heat.”
“Lawless,” from the Weinstein Company, opens August 29 across the U.S. Rating: **1/2 (Evans)
‘Little White Lies’
The French “Little White Lies” takes the formula “The Big Chill” introduced three decades ago -- old friends reuniting to rock and roll -- and applies it to a group of good-looking Parisians who vacation together every summer.
The writer-director, Guillaume Canet, gives them all crises. One married couple is no longer clicking. Two of the guys are having girlfriend problems. One of the women has intimacy issues. One of the men has panicked another with a declaration of love.
Canet doesn’t know what to do with these situations: When he tries to resolve them the movie feels pat, and when he doesn’t it feels incomplete.
The script doesn’t explain what connects the group or why they’ve assembled around Max, an uptight hotelier who’s a generation older than his guests and lords over them by reminding them how much they’re costing him.
But the actors -- who include Francois Cluzet as Max, Marion Cotillard and (in a small but pivotal role) Jean Dujardin
What the Stars Mean: ***** Fantastic **** Excellent *** Very Good ** Good * Poor (No stars) Avoid
(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)
Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s NYC Weekend and a Lewis Lapham podcast.