Hats off to Hollywood for crafting heart-warming stories about ordinary people. Can you imagine a Bollywood film featuring a pizza delivery guy or a courier as hero? Here, in Mumbai that is, the subaltern has to make do with public transport (like I do). The working class can afford (second hand) cars in the West, where employers will customarily provide staff with vehicles as per the requirements of the job. As does Raj (Aasif Mandvi) the laid-back despatch chief of a New York courier company in this entertaining actioner about bicycle messengers.
Columbia law school grad Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) loves the adrenaline rush that comes from dodging fast cars and pedestrians on bikes without brakes or gears. As does his girlfriend Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) who is also being wooed by fellow messenger Manny (Wole Parks) Wilee’s assignment for the day is a premium rush run for Nima (Jamie Chung) a former classmate and the current roommate of his girlfriend. The assignment turns into a life-threatening zig-zag through the streets of Manhattan where Wilee is being chased by The Law in the shape of a pesky biking cop and a corrupt detective named Robert Monday (Michael Shannon, look out for him in the upcoming “Man of Steel”).
I should tell you the movie starts with a time-tested trope: a shot of Wilee flying through the air and hitting the ground in s-l-o-w motion after being hit by a vehicle. The film then time shifts several times showing flashbacks. The chase for the urgent delivery to a Chinatown denizen is the main strand of this narrative, which fleshes out the back-story between the set action pieces. Google street views and a clock show the audience just how little time Wilee has to carry out his task.
The sub plot is about Nima who has offended the Chinese government by criticising its brutal treatment of Tibetans. Nima’s desperate attempt to smuggle her small son out of China is used to briefly rant against totalitarian regimes with or without obscenities and profanities. These, mind you, are not restricted to aforementioned communist regime but used against all and sundry.