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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Premium Rush

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in a scene from the movie "Premium Rush."
For many New Yorkers, especially those who like to perambulate their city without risking life and limb, few subcultures are less sympathetic than that of Gotham's bicycle messengers. So it's a pretty safe bet that there are at least a few hundred thousand peripatetic potential viewers out there who will have to suspend a great deal of disbelief to take a liking to the characters in "Premium Rush" (Columbia).

Further stumbling blocks along the energetically traversed path of director and co-writer (with John Kamps) David Koepp's drama include gritty dialogue that catches viewers in a slipstream of unrelieved vulgarity and vivid scenes of accidental injury and purposeful inhumanity.

All that said, star Joseph Gordon-Levitt goes a long way toward making his character, fleet of foot pedaler Wilee—yes, boomers, as in Wile E. Coyote—more amiable than expected. He's cocky, to be sure, but not in the odious way of his main speed-rival Manny (Wole Parks). Along with trying to outstrip and out-trash-talk Wilee on the streets, Manny has his eye on Wilee's girl, their co-worker Vanessa (Dania Ramirez).

Yes, Virginia, there are some characters in this movie who are not employed as messengers. Take Vanessa's roommate Nima (Jamie Chung), for example; she toils at prestigious Columbia University. Dispatched to Columbia's campus for a pickup one day, Wilee is surprised to find his acquaintance Nima in the role of client. She has an envelope she wants to have delivered to Chinatown post haste.

No sweat. Except that—for reasons Wilee can't initially fathom, nor can we—someone else wants the contents of Nima's envelope really, really bad. That would be half-crazed rogue cop Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon).

Dangerously in debt due to his gambling addiction—his game of choice, oddly enough, is a Chinese version of dominoes called Pai Gow—Monday is on the run from loan sharks. He's convinced that Nima's package holds, shall we say, the ticket to his salvation.

The ensuing dash all around the town gives Koepp the opportunity to serve up some fluid and suspenseful chase scenes, and he capitalizes on it with style.

But he and Kamps irresponsibly glamorize the recklessness of the couriers' lifestyle as a thrilling alternative to the boredom of office work. Thus daredevil Wilee—his bike literally has no brakes—is portrayed as a veteran, perhaps a graduate, of Columbia's law school who refuses to take the bar lest he have to wear a suit all day. Way to stick it to the Man, Wilee!

Though various characters fly through the air and land with a thud, they take their lumps with such indifference that any implicit warning about a downside to all this quickly gets left behind on the pavement.

As for Monday, in his increasing desperation and quasi-lunacy, he resorts to a level of cruelty that even most adults may find difficult to witness.

The film contains scenes of violence, including beatings and torture, about 20 instances of profanity, at least one use of the F-word, pervasive crude and crass language and obscene gestures. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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