How do you solve a problem of a potentially unlikeable, abrasive protagonist? Make sure his antagonist is the worst kind of person he could possibly be. Throw in another large, shady, unbeatable power--say, the Chinese government--and a few slick chase scenes and you've got yourself a movie.
Premium Rush doesn't carry much weight, but then again, it doesn't really need to. When adrenaline junkie bicycle messenger Wilee, played by one of my personal favorites, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, picks up a MacGuffin that absolutely must be across town by a certain time and delivered only to a certain person, he doesn't see it as anything out of the ordinary. That is, until he's chased down by a complete lunatic, played gleefully by Michael Shannon, who demands the package back.
Couple this with an NYPD that is bumbling at best and outright hostile at worst, along with a cause so noble it's unimpeachable, and our intrepid daredevil of a protagonist is all set to go, gaining the audience's sympathy and support along the way.
Michael Shannon's over-the-top villain may rub some viewers the wrong way, but I found him hysterical. He stole every scene he was in, and you never knew what he was going to do next, which is refreshing in an essentially predictable film. His performance lets the audience know they don't have to take the film too seriously. The film even lampshades its light take on things by a including real, outtake-style video of the result of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's injury-inducing accident on set during the credits.
Chase movies, by their nature, don't need much by way of plot or character development, and Premium Rush is light on both. There are no great, deep character insights or compelling, deep questions for the audience to consider, and there don't really need to be. It's a light, fun, funny thriller that delivers what it promises.