12A | ***
IT SAYS a lot about the US’s attitude to cycling that its filmmakers see the world of bicycle couriers as fertile ground for an action movie. Apparently American roads are so beholden to the requirements of the automobile, that the only people who dare traverse them by bike are members of a hidden subculture populated by muscle-bound tattooed speed-freaks.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Wilee is the speediest of them all. “Like the Coyote?” someone asks him at a frantic moment. “Yes,” Wilee replies, providing an important clue to what screenwriter and director David Koepp (Spider-Man, Panic Room, Mission Impossible) was trying to achieve with this movie. With minimal plot, short run-time and shatterproof characters that get up after 40mph car collisions, this is a real-life cartoon.
Like an episode of Whacky Races or Roadrunner, the entire movie is a single chase from one end of Manhattan to the other. Wilee has been ordered to deliver an envelope and psycho crooked cop Michael Shannon wants whatever’s inside.
That’s all you need to know. The film falls down when it tries to over-elaborate on plot points. It’s smart to have an action movie where the most potent danger is traffic, as it all feels very familiar. It is easier to relate to almost being hit by car to almost being hit a by a bullet and some of the near misses will generate gasps from anyone who has ever crossed a road.
We are engaged through the non-bike bits by Michael Shannon’s performance as the cartoonishly evil gambling addict cop, Bobby Monday. Gordon-Levitt also gives a charismatic performance as the over-educated bicycle courier who chose simply “to ride” instead of taking his bar exams and becoming a lawyer.
In keeping with the cartoon theme, this movie has the feel of a doodle or sketch. There is a sense that Koepp made the movie just to see if he could. The result is fast, forgettable but most of all, fun.