Greetings again from the darkness. This one gets bonus points because it is simply fun to watch. Though it fades from memory rather quickly, the film actually has surprisingly strong bones. It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon … two very well respected and high profile actors for a movie that has such basic and cartoonish elements. David Koepp directed and co-wrote the script, and he too has an impressive status in Hollywood. Mr. Koepp directed the underrated Ghost Town, and his writing impact can be seen in movies such as Panic Room, War of the Worlds, and the following franchises: Spider-Man, Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible, and Indiana Jones.
JGL plays Wilee, the “best” of the Manhattan bicycle messengers. If you have ever visited NYC, you surely have seen these seemingly fearless riders as they zip between taxis and people and delivery trucks. Wilee works out of an office run by Raj (Aasif Mandvi), and has a on/off relationship with fellow rider Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), and a slightly friendly rivalry with Manny (Wole Parks). Seriously, none of that really matters and the script could have been a group project in a community college film class.
What does lend the film it’s point of difference are the action-filled chase scenes through the busy streets of Manhattan. Since a movie needs some kind of plot, there is a purposefully absurd ticket with a hand-drawn smiley face that absolutely, positively has to be delivered by 7:00 pm. Otherwise, the child of Nima (Jamie Chung) doesn’t get to join its mother in the United States. See, Nima has been working 3 jobs to raise the fee the Chinese mafia demands for shipping people.
The chase scenes have a nice twist with CGI effects that demonstrate how the cyclists “see” the best route to take. We even get the dramatic and sometimes humorous results of a wrong decision. The chase that lasts pretty much the entire length of the movie is that of dirty cop and horrible gambler Bobby Monday (played by Michael Shannon). He is a desperate man and not even remotely clear thinking most of the time. It’s quite a different Shannon than we are used to … the silent simmering of his usual roles makes no appearance. Instead, we get full-throttle Michael Shannon – screaming, cussing, and over the top. Very odd to watch.
It seems as though every stunt person in New York was employed for the film, but the stand-ins are not easy to spot. The chase scenes are well filmed and quite entertaining. It’s an adrenaline rush that begins and ends with The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”. Just don’t expect the rush to last … they never do.
** NOTE: If you ever make a movie, keep in mind that if the story takes place within a 2 hour window, much money can be saved in the wardrobe budget.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are just looking for a fun, high speed ride through the traffic of Manhattan
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: simple stories annoy you even if they are a mechanism for frenetic action
watch the trailer: