I know zero about the world of bicycle messengers. My only other exposure to that world was the post-apocalyptic world of Jessica Alba’s Dark Angel (cancelled all too soon). In fact, I can’t even ride a bicycle, so this whole movie was like science fiction to me.
Our main hero is Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays Wilee, a carefree messenger who chooses to ride a bike without gears or brakes (“He has a death wish,” comments other characters in a way that is just short of being overly expository). Well, he gets caught up in the middle of a delivery that involves a strange Chinese mafia and a corrupt NYPD detective. Only his crazy bike antics can save him (and save the day as well).
The movie starts off in a way that seems like it’s a Mountain Dew commercial. The graphics and effects are outlandish but in a way that draws you in. Wiley can see multiple outcomes, so he witnesses himself crashing many times, but always choose another option. However, while the movie starts and ends on this note, the middle lacks the same punch (which we’ll discuss in our next section). Gordon-Levitt is solid and believable as Wilee but there’s really only one dimension on the page, so he does what he can.
And while I hated the villain (corrupt NYPD officer played by Michael Shannon), I guess that means he played the part perfectly. He’s desperate and kind of a sleezeball, but at least his character is compelling.
I mentioned earlier that I don’t know anything about the world of messenger bicyclists, this movie did a solid job of making me invested in their world. The effects were pretty incredible and most of the chase scenes had me on the edge of my seat.
What didn’t work?
There was one major flaw: pacing. The beginning gets you all amped up but the movie starts to drag once the focus shifts to the complicated story involving Jamie Chung and what Wilee is delivering. The story is interesting but it’s likely not the reason people came to see this movie. It delivered on its promise of high octane bicycle action but there was a solid chunk of the movie that really slowed things down.
This was an exciting movie that introduced me to a world I’ve never experienced, so I found most of the movie compelling. The plot got a little thick in the middle and detracted from the action, though the thrilling conclusion was fun and worth the wait. Gordon-Levitt carried the movie with a decent supporting cast but the writing was fairly superficial. It’s a fun ride but you’ll likely find yourself checking your watch about halfway through.