Why ‘Premium Rush’ Is The Long Lost Sequel To ‘BMX Bandits’

By  · Published on August 24th, 2012

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; training wheels are sexy, dammit. You cycled your way through all the worthwhile content on the Internet, and fifteen minutes later you wound up here. Every week we examine movies so bad, watching them is like riding a bicycle without an overused simile. We kick the tires so hard they go spinning off the frame and irrevocably disrupt the game of ultimate Frisbee going on in the park we’re apparently in for this scenario. But then, just as we’re about to reach the highest gear of snark, we hit the brakes and admit that we’re head-over-handlebars in love with said bad film. To help ease the resulting bloody wounds, we will indulge in a delicious themed snack food item to tide us over until the ambulance arrives. Bikes!

As we all know, any films made after 1989 are inherently inferior to the inferior movies of the years prior. However, there are miraculously rare occurrences when inferior movies from the inferior inferior movie era, i.e. right now times, are the type of inferior we find superior. In these instances, the movies playing in the multiplexes actually manage to exemplify the highly low standards we demand from our schlock. This week, one such glorious failure is Premium Rush. Starring that little Chinese girl from 3rd Rock from the Sun, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Premium Rush is about a group of people who ride bicycles for a living. No they don’t wear fancy yellow jerseys nor, disappointingly, are they circus bears. They are couriers, they deliver letters to people who apparently haven’t discovered email yet. JGAcronym gets hold of a magical McGuffin that attracts a sweaty corrupt cop, bikes are biked, the end.

Normally, Premium Rush would register merely a blip on the Bing-sponsored maps that substitute for plot points every five minutes during the film. However, about thirty minutes in, it became clear that what we were actually watching was the long-lost bastard sibling of BMX Bandits. You may recall that BMX Bandits as that sporting-goods-centric kids film about three thieving children on bipedal, two-wheeled terror steeds. It is, among other things, offensively Australian. Regardless of its criminal associations, BMX Bandits is a funky buttload of fun. Tweaking a few elements slightly, in true sequel fashion, it becomes clear that Premium Rush can be enjoyed with the same butt-loaded funk-funnery as a followup to BMX Bandits…and practically no other way.

So instead of two knuckle-dragging dolts and one wallaby-sized future Oscar winner, we get Joe-Go Levs as the trash-talking simpleton who comes into possession of the much sought-after contraband. We get to know him via the typical methods of Hollywood character development: fancy bikour moves. I’m not going to use irresponsibly suggestive descriptors here that could be easily construed. What I will say is that he’s a real pedalphile who likes to turn tricks in the park.

This time around, instead of a pair of toy store walkie-talkies, the contraband is a marked movie ticket with some sort of immeasurable associated value. The context clues seem to indicate that the ticket’s antecedent is a mahjong tower of cash. I however spent a great deal of the run time believing it was so desired as it would offer admittance to any other movie but this one. All kidding aside (happens never), the ticket is actually tantamount to payment to a elderly female snakehead (people smuggler) who bears a striking, and horrifying resemblance to Ric Ocasek from The Cars.

In BMX Bandits, a pair of Aussie bullies were hot on the trail of our Vegemite-fueled hooligans as were the police. In Premium Rush, John-Joseph Gordonheimer-Levitt is pursued by a corrupt cop played by the supposedly talented Michael Shannon. Truth be told, Shannon is a fantastic actor…which is why we have to assume he came in second in a drink fight with a bottle of paint thinner just before action was called. He chews the scenery like it was peanut butter-covered bubblegum, squeaking his invectives with a New York accent that only accents the fact that he is not from New York. Shannon is basically the two bullies from BMX Bandits rolled into one being who was then forced to wear James Cagney’s death mask. Last year he was favored for an Oscar nod, this year he’s Jigsaw from Punisher: War Zone. He does all of this while contending with the fact that he’s the second-billed villain; the first being, evidently, Timex.

At regular intervals, giant digital time stamps oppressively occupy the screen. It’s the most literal interpretation of a ticking clock gimmick that even Jack Bauer would deem overkill if he weren’t entirely fictional. But in addition to having to fight for his hammy screen moments between Timex-plosions, Shannon’s character also can’t seem to help losing money at pai gow. We’d sympathize and/or condemn him if we had any inkling as to just what in blazes pai gow was. That tears it, we’re going to research this…

So pai gow has absolutely nothing to do with pie? Outrageous! How can anyone be so addicted to a game of chance that promises sweet delicious pie and instead, in a cruel manipulation of homophones, offers only dominoes. Well, that’s fair I suppose. Wait, what? It’s not even Domino’s pizza?! A double count of flagrant false food advertising? What the hell kind of sick joke is this? I think I feel a hunger-based rage coma coming on.

Another element of BMX Bandits that surreptitiously creeps into Premium Rush is the fat kid. Mind you, this is not just another incident in our well-documented history of insensitivity. The character’s name in BMX Bandits was The Fat Kid. He was a bothersome little shit who tried to thwart our “heroes” at every turn only to be soundly and repeatedly foiled and humiliated. In Premium Rush, the fat kid is stretched thin and inhabits the body of a bike cop who really wants to nail Wilee (Josie Gordo Levy-Lev) for…riding a bike. He spends the entire movie suffering constant indignities that only somewhat favorably compare to the the indignities of actually being a bike cop. It’s like a cartoon! Except this time around, the flatfoot riding the ten-speed Roadrunner can’t catch the wily Wilee. Sgt. Schwinn gets so fed up at one point that he tackles a black cyclist who many would argue looks almost nothing like JGL.

Did you now there is a tight-knit union of bicycle messengers that, despite the differing companies by which they are employed, will turn up flash mob style to back up their bros when called? No? Neither did any actual bicycle messengers. Thankfully, Premium Rush is there to inform of us all of this categorically false fact. With the aid of five minutes and a single phone tree, every courier in New York shows up to help Johnny GoGo Leviticus in his hour of need; poking and bumping the suitably confused Michael Shannon. The dubious nature of this cyclepathic bond notwithstanding, we all know there is nothing more intimidating than being surrounded by a flock of bike messengers who subject their quarry to a hale of…minor irritations that don’t even qualify as superficial injuries. This senseless assembly is another shared trait with BMX Bandits. At one point, every bike-having child on the prison-turned-continent shows up to take on the bullies.

But in lieu of BMX Bandits’ exciting, waterslide-based set pieces, Premium Rush strives for a more pronounced degree of idiocy. Hell, the title itself is clearly an acknowledgement of the under-the-gun haste by which it was completed. It treats story construction with the same tender care and regard as baseball cards stuck haphazardly in the spokes of a toddler’s tricycle. Much like the robbery-assisting walkie-talkies of BMX Bandits, one can understand why Detective Puffyface McNutsBalls desperately wants that ticket.

However what isn’t as clear is why, once the nefarious nature of this parcel becomes evident, the courier company refuses to ditch the gig. I mean sure, they are in a position to make exactly fifty dollars, but even fortunes of that dizzying magnitude wouldn’t completely trump reason, right? Also, Premium Rush is a film about a biker who adamantly refuses to have brakes on his bike. For a movie that tries so hard to heroicize cyclists, it sure does a tremendous job vilifying this crucial bicycle safety feature. JGL, like the movie, is terrified of slowing down and therefore detests brakes. He will will not rock them. He is anti-rock-brakes. Goodnight, folks!

Junkfood Pairing: Pie-Go

All bike-related nonsense aside, I want to go back to the core issue brought to light by Premium Rush: pai gow is a game that has zero to do with pie. This will not stand. Therefore, we here at the JFC foodlab/room-where-the-Christmas-tree-is-stored have developed an actual pie-focused game that only slightly completely rips off a preexisting game.

So it’s basically Bingo, except instead of pulling Bingo balls, each combination of letters and numbers is printed at the bottom of a pie tin. You are issued a card, and then you must attack a giant table of mini pies until you’ve eaten your way to a Pie-Go. Who says Bingo is just for old people…or skinny people.

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.