Monday, February 18, 2013

Premium Rush: The Hero Rides a Bike

American cinema has long celebrated the hero who drives a car, and car chases have become a staple of American action films.  But tonight I watched the first film I'd ever seen where the hero not only rides a bike, but engages in "bike chases" which are as exciting as anything a gas-guzzler has to offer.

The movie is called "Premium Rush" and it stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a New York City bicycle courier and law school graduate, who prefers the fast-paced, car-dodging world of city bike delivery to the more boring world of suits and offices.  He rides a fixed-gear bike, which has become synonymous with hipsters, but he rides it with a gallantry and coolness that it feels almost like an art.  He doesn't like brakes because they fail and cause accidents.  He prefers the total control, and total abandon, of a fixed gear bike.

I won't go into the plot too much.  It involves a corrupt cop (which we're probably going to be seeing a lot more of in movies), a hawala money transfer, an immigrant child, and an underground network of bike riders.

But what I appreciated most about the movie is that the hero rides a bike.  As someone who does not own a car, does not want to own a car, probably (hopefully) never will own a car, I could relate.  I ride a bicycle not for recreation or exercise, but for transportation.  And, like the bike couriers in the film, I often feel like a pariah in the world of American transportation.  On my morning commute to Cal State Fullerton, I can choose to either RISK MY LIFE and ride on Chapman (which has no bike lanes) or I can be that annoying person who rides on the sidewalk.  Those are my choices: death or annoying.  In short...it's a car's world.  For now.

But the world is changing.  I dream of the day when bikes are the norm, when the only fuel we need to put in our vehicles is our own calories.  That's the kind of world I want to live in.  Bravo, Premium Rush, for giving an outcast like me a hero.

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