I am accustomed to movies in which I don’t have to worry about for whom I want to root. Simba is the good lion; Scar is the bad lion. The robots who transform from happy, regular General Motors cars are more favorable than the robots who transform from angry, mean military equipment. The Mighty Ducks are better than Iceland.
I like these movies. I like to pull for the good guy. I even like it if I end up cheering for what constitutes the bad guy if need be. What I like less: having a vested interest in both.
“Premium Rush” premieres in theaters Friday. The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bicycle courier in New York City who is tasked with transporting an “important package.” Michael Shannon plays a guy who wants what’s in the package but cannot have it on account of Gordon-Levitt’s standard of professional ethics. So, naturally, Shannon chases Gordon-Levitt throughout the city because it’s probably too easy to either shoot Gordon-Levitt or put a big stick in his spokes.
The trailers seem to indicate that Gordon-Levitt, smiley chum on his bike, is the good guy. But while Shannon is portrayed as the main human antagonist, there is a much greater villain lurking in the shadows: cars.
Herein lies the problem.
I have a bike. I enjoy riding it for leisure, to go to the beach and, on a good day, for transporting a morning pastry from the bakery. I follow the rules of the road and get frustrated when cars don’t acknowledge that they need to share the road. Point: Gordon-Levitt.
I also have a car. I enjoy driving it to get to work, to go on road trips and, on a good day, for transporting a morning pastry from the bakery. I’m happy to share the road with bicyclists but get frustrated and nervous when they do unsafe things and force me into dangerous situations. (Note to bicyclists: I know it’s not all, or even some, of you. But it is something that happens. More often than I like.) Point: cars.
So, in the situation of “Premium Rush,” who am I supposed to root for?
On one hand, Gordon-Levitt seems like a nice guy who got stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time and would probably prefer Shannon just leave him be. Plus, he was in “10 Things I Hate About You” and helped Batman in “The Dark Knight Rises.” And I like bikes. So I want to root for the guy.
But then I watch the trailer again, and he’s kind of a scallywag to the regular people just driving their cars. In said trailer, he seems to cause two or three accidents in a minute and a half. I can’t stand behind something like that. “Sooner or later, we all get hit,” he says. Not if you use the proper turn signals!
But you can’t root for the car to actually hit Gordon-Levitt, can you? That’s like rooting for The Force to choke the incompetent intergalactic lieutenant in “Star Wars.” Besides, I think I want him to win, right? What a mess.
Thank goodness Mufasa never got Simba past training wheels.
Andy reminds everyone to wear a helmet.