Cinema, Cycling, and the Anti Hero

2012-08-22

We love this story. A strong-willed, charismatic, rogue protagonist with an alternative and edgy lifestyle that becomes involved in an ultimate challenge and finally rises to the occasion.

Premium Rush chase scene
Premium Rush chase scene

We love this story when it is told in the context of embellished history, like William Wallace in Braveheart - back when Mel Gibson just seemed mostly harmless and not scarysad.

We love this story when it is told in classic works, musicals, and various movie adaptations, like Valjean in Les Miserables.

It's Vin Diesel in almost every movie he's been in. It's Aeon Flux, Alice in Wonderland, Alice in Resident Evil, Beowulf, Batman, Pac-man (the pill popper), Sanjuro Kuwabatake in Yojimbo, Aragorn.

We are drawn to these faulty characters because they seem more real, more like us. They are flawed in some understandable way, a way we can relate to. These characters are likable despite their human faults, and they become the kind of person you want to win, to bring back order and prove their worth to us, the audience that is now vested in their victory. In this story it becomes the audience that would now be cheated if the bad guys won.

But somehow, the bad guys won't win. Our fractured character, the anti hero, will win and be our champion.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt after crashing through a window on the set of Premium Rush
Joseph Gordon-Levitt after crashing through a window on the set of Premium Rush

Cycling is about to get an new anti hero, and I for one have been wanting and waiting for this to happen.

The 80's had a good run of popular movies about bike anti heroes that bucked the traditional norm. There was Quicksilver which featured a bicycle messenger (hmm), BMX Bandits which had the best use of walkie-talkies ever of any movie, Pee-wee's Big Adventure - the best damn bicycle movie of all time.

But, it's been a while since modern movie-making magic turned it's focus back onto the bicycle in any fictional, non-comical way. The trailer for Premium Rush has fixies, messengering, law-flaunting, thrilling chase sequences, and our anti hero is wearing a helmet through it all.

I wonder how many jokes will be made, in movie and out of movie, about Wilee wearing a helmet.

I wonder how long it will take for there to be some newspaper or news site story that ends up basking in the sweet stench of the vitriolic comments section, as it always does.

I wonder if I'll have to defend the concept of this movie in conversations with friends and colleagues, who will no doubt ask me next Monday if I saw that new movie about a crazy bike messenger guy who saves something.

Of course I'll be going on opening night, tagging along with some other fixie riders as we celebrate with Geekhouse Bikes (who built one of the bikes used for the movie) and Superb, two local area hand-built bike manufacturers, as well as the Boston Bike Messenger Association (BBMA).

Complete for Columbia Pictures Premium Rush
Marty from Geekhouse Bikes shows off the Premium Rush bike they built

I'll also be going the night before it opens, for a screener event that a friend of mine scored tickets for.

And just for the record, I've been riding around in a red shirt and black shorts on my (hybrid, then later my fixed gear) bike for roughly two years, but it was in no way inspired from when I first heard of this movie being made, it is a complete coincidence.

Me, in red shirt black shorts next to my fixie
Me, in red shirt black shorts next to my fixie

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