Film Review: Premium Rush



I can think of all sorts of excuses about how I ended up seeing Sparkle: My mom wanted to see it, women’s health Expendables 2 was sold out, website it’s Black people’s version of The Dark Knight etc. But truth be told, I needed “Sparkle” punched on my Black Card. Nope, I didn’t see the original despite the hundreds of Sunday afternoons channel surfing right by it but oh, sweet redemption.

Even without not seeing the original I know Sparkle really doesn’t need any introduction but if you didn’t know; Sparkle is the tale of a girl with dreams of singing in the lime light but her fear causes her to hide her talent behind her oldest sister, affectionately called “Sister” (Carmen Ejogo). So Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) lives vicariously through Sister performing her songs until she meets Stix (Derek Luke) who encourages her to follow her dream and embrace her talent. Sparkle and Sister enlist Dee (Tika Sumpter) their youngest sister to round out the trio and despite their mother, Emma’s (Whitney Houston) warning, the girls pursue singing, each with a different motivation.

Sparkle [2012] is a remake that I heard no grumbling about, instead it had a lot of “it’s about time” feelings. The movie is a color-struck man’s wet dream with tons of pretty, singing, light skinneded women but I was rather fond of Dee, Sparkle’s youngest sister who would flunk a paper bag test. The laughs were very candid, most of them you won’t see coming but you will see the episodes of domestic violence coming even without the slow-motion dramatization. The movie score was off the damn chain (Editor, Can I say damn?) [Editor’s Note: No.], the soundtrack may be something to reckon with. But the pressing question I have is how long did the sisters think they could hide their singing from their mother when they were performing on cable tv!?


Mike Epps stole the show as Satin, Sister’s abusive boyfriend and made for a really good badguy. Epps didn’t play Satin as Mike Epps doing a stand up routine on screen, he was really in character. Sure, Satin was a comedian but only for 2 minutes, he was all bad guy virtually the whole time he was on screen. Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) and Stix’s (Derek Luke) #BlackLove was only second to Obama and Michelle, you just had to root for Derek.

I won’t call out Director Salim Akil for taking a cue from the movie Love Jones but he could have at least made Jordin Sparks’ hair move with a fan. But Akil has a lot to bolster in a relatively short amount of time, he’s directed the tv series Soul Food, Girlfriends, and The Game as well as the feature film Jumping the Broom – all since 2003. Sparkle is the first time I’ve known his name but I’m familiar with his resume so now he’s definitely on my watch list as I’m sure more feature films are down the road.

Fellas, it’s rare a “chick flick” comes around that really isn’t a chick flick. I even thumbed through the Man Code twice and couldn’t find any violations plus it’s Black Hollywood at it’s best. Only take girlfriends though, jump offs and side chicks might get ideas. Blame Derek Luke. Ladies, I think you’ll get little resistance on this one because Sparkle is the best date movie released this summer, hands down. There weren’t any fresh faces but rising star Tika Sumpter is definitely taking on quality roles and veteran Carmen Ejogo has an upcoming role in the Alex Cross movie along side Tyler Perry. And finally, fans get to pay their last respects to Whitney Houston.

Movie Moment of Zen:
The entire theater giving Whitney Houston an ovation when she first appeared on screen.

Movie Moment of Ghetto:
The person who took a picture of Whitney Houston on screen, with flash!

Credit: Sony Pictures


Who is Joseph Gordon-Levitt and why will he be in 3 feature films in as many months? He’s written his own name on my favorite actors list with ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘Premium Rush’ in theaters with ‘Looper’ coming to the big screen in September. I know it’s a lot to consider someone among favorites when you just heard of them, clinic but I’ve enjoyed the roles he’s played this summer.


Forget all that.


Credit: Sony Pictures


The real reason I checked out Premium Rush was Dania Ramirez, pill mmm mmm mmmmmmm. If it wasn’t for her I would have likely passed on Premium Rush so Joseph Gordon-Levitt would still only be ‘Robin’ to me, food and my favorite actor list would still be intact. Joseph, you have Dania Ramirez to thank because I whole heartedly enjoyed Premium Rush and got 1 helluva movie at matinee price.


Premium Rush uses non-linear narrative to tell the story of Wilee (Josheph Gordon-Levitt) a bike messenger in New York City in the middle of a breakup with his girlfriend Vanessa (Dania Ramirez, mmm mmm mmmmm) at odds because they’re not on the same path anymore. Other than the ignored phone calls from Vanessa, the day is typical for Wilee until he gets a job requiring a trek across NYC and back in 90 minutes during rush hour. Unknown to Wilee, he’s carrying a ticket worth $50,000 in cash and gambling addicted NYPD Detective Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon) needs to get his hands on that ticket to pay a debt worth his life. Narrowly escaping death more than once, Wilee returns the ticket thinking it’s illegal but after learning it’s true purpose Wilee is determined to make the delivery on time, no matter what.


Before I say Premium Rush was a great movie and you should drop everything right now to go see it I have to pause because my Editor saw a movie on my recommendation and absolutely hated it. So let me just say I thought Premium Rush was an outstanding movie because I identified heavily with Wilee.


Credit: Sony Pictures


Wilee was a bike messenger with a law degree because being a bike messenger allowed him to do what he loved most – ride. The thought of the alternative, wearing a suit (presumably in a courtroom), drove a wedge between him and Vanessa because he thought doing any thing other than what you loved was selling yourself short. Wilee missed Vanessa’s graduation because he thought she would end up settling but hoped to reconcile. (Don’t get me wrong, missing your girlfriend’s graduation is stupid no matter how you slice it!) Riding to Wilee was more than a hobby and greater than a lifestyle, the way he rode was a manifestation of his personal philosophy. Wilee’s bike had 1 fixed gear so he ALWAYS had to pedal, there was no coasting only work to get to his destination. His bike also didn’t have brakes. He believed having brakes posed more of a danger than not having them because “the worst (stuff) happened to me when I had brakes”. [It’s called “target fixation”, instead, he looked where he wanted to go to get around an obstacle and having no brakes forced him to do that.] As an avid motorcyclist I knew exactly where Wilee was coming from and how he felt to not have his girlfriend understand his passion, no matter how (many times) he explained it.


Credit: Sony Pictures


Wilee’s rival, Manny (Wolé Parks), was a true “hater”. Wilee acomplished the goals that Manny failed to achieve and to spite Wilee, Manny tried to discredit him using Wilee’s own character against him. Shameful. But ultimately, Wilee lived his truth no matter what and the plot of Premium Rush unfolded in a way that made Wilee the only man for the job; it was his shining moment. Despite all the criticism from his peers they knew only Wilee could answer the call and that criticism and misunderstanding uniformly turned to praise and support.



Without getting on my soapbox, Wilee spit some game from a place that only people who live and breathe their passion can truly understand. But the takeaway for everyone is to live your truth. Your truth is something so uniquely you that people confuse you with “it” but it is just an extension of you.


And to think, all I wanted to see was a sweaty Dania Ramirez.


Favorite Movie Quotes:
“Is that a Chinese phonebook?” – Detective Monday


“I’ll beat your ass, man! Have you seen my thighs? Have you seen my thighs!?” – Manny


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Disclaimer: I’m an employee of Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner, however the views expressed in this post are of my own.

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