Chris Evans as Nick Gant
Dakota Fanning as Cassie Holmes
Djimon Hounsou as Henry Carver
Camilla Belle as Kira Hudson
Neil Jackson as Victor Budarin
Maggie Siff as Teresa Stowe
Cliff Curtis as Hook Waters
Ming-Na as Emily Hu
Nate Mooney as Pinky Stein
Hal Yamanouchi as Pop Father
Xiao Lu Li as Pop Girl
Kwan Fung Chi as Pop Boy #1
Jacky Heung as Pop Boy #2
Corey Stoll as Agent Mack
Scott Michael Campbell as Agent Holden
Directed by Paul McGuigan
The only thing worse than a dull and unimpressive action flick is one that could have been better, but is completely oblivious to how incredibly lame it is.
Nick Gant (Chris Evans) is a 2nd Generation Mover, a telekinetic who can move objects with his mind, who is convinced by 13-year-old Cassie Holmes, a Watcher who can see the future, to help her find a mysterious case in the possession of Kira Hudson (Camilla Belle), an escaped subject of Division who might have the key to all their questions. Before they can find her, they become the target for a group of Hong Kong gangsters with their own array of mental powers and Division’s top agent Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou), all of whom want Kira and the case for their own reasons.
There’s certainly a lot of room to play when you come up with a concept about a world populated by people with various mental powers living among us, a concept that’s been the basis for many great stories from comic books to television shows like “Heroes.” Trying to capitalize on the mainstreaming of the superhero genre, “Push” offers a few new ideas in terms of the use of various powers, but it doesn’t necessarily offer the depth of storytelling or intensity of action some might hope from a story set in this world.
After a flashback showing Chris Evans’ Nick Gant as a child watching his parents killed by agents of Division, the opening credits fill us in on the world in which this movie is set, one where the government has been experimenting to give people mental powers, creating all sorts of subgroups with names like “Movers” and “Pushers” and “Bleeders,” all who can use their mind to achieve varying results. Ten years later, Nick is in hiding in Hong Kong when he encounters Dakota Fanning’s Cassie, a 13-year-old Watcher who convinces him that they can make a lot of money by finding a case being carried by a young woman, putting them on the run from a family of Hong Kong Triad, including a cute lollipop-sucking Watcher, and Djimon Hounsou’s Henry Carver, a Division agent with the ability to “push” ideas into his victims’ heads, all of who want the woman and case for themselves.
It’s fair enough to believe that seeing humans with these kinds of powers interacting in our world could make for an interesting movie, though there’s really only so much chatter you can listen to about possible futures, “Sniffs” and “Shifts” and other powered people with similarly ridiculous names for their powers, before your mind starts to shut down. It’s a classic case of a screenwriter who instead of just allowing the director to show something, he has to have everyone talking about it, and the writing is so flat that the movie’s potential is squandered by the amount of exposition.
Chris Evans offers none of the charm and personality that made his Human Torch such a fun part of the otherwise weak “Fantastic Four” movies, while everyone else tries to act all serious and tough because that seems to be what’s needed. The worst of the lot is Dakota Fanning, looking like a punked-out cross between Tori Amos and Avril Lavigne, and trying to make clever quips. Her and Evans have absolutely none of the chemistry needed to make their relationship work and there are only a few mildly amusing moments like when Fanning’s character gets drunk in one of the funnier bits since alcohol helps her powers. Otherwise, they do little to elevate the dull, lifeless tone of the movie, and Camilla Belle isn’t much better when she shows up as Nick’s former love interest, because their chemistry is only slightly better. The film does eventually get interesting as Nick’s group try to find a way to retrieve the case while avoiding the powers that can find them and figure out their every movie.
Apparently, shooting a movie in Hong Kong makes any director believe they’re John Woo, and Paul McGuigan goes way overboard with the Hong Kong action references, the most obvious one being Nick using his powers to float two guns over his head – why someone with telekinesis powers would need guns is never considered. For the most part, all the telekinesis FX look really bad. While you don’t necessarily see the wires, you can feel their presence, especially in one scene where Nick uses his powers to hold two shaky guns at the heads of the baddies, leading to a ridiculous telekinetic gunfight. Then there are the Bleeders, who essentially scream really loudly to make things explode, one of the lamer powers on display in the movie. With so many crazy powers loose in the world, you might wonder why the citizens of Hong Kong aren’t questioning all of the strange things happening with fish tanks exploding and large-scale property damage, but that’s generally how little thought was put into how these powers might act in the real world.
Ultimately, the movie falters from the sad fact that McGuigan isn’t very good at filming action, resorting to slow motion and fast editing to try to make up for the shoddy wirework and amateurish FX. These weak action scenes are so sparse that it might be forgivable if this weren’t being sold primarily as an action film. McGuigan is also way too in love with his film’s HK setting as he overemphasizes the environment with loving aerial shots of the city and using real locations that are such a hodgepodge of colors that the movie tends to look like a mess.
After a couple of clunky twists, the story climaxes in an ambitious set piece within a building construction site where we get to see all the powers on display as bodies fly everywhere and we get a taste of some telekinetic kung fu. (Seriously.) After all of the build up, it’s rather unsatisfying that the only way to end the story is with a glorified shoot-out.
The Bottom Line:
“Push” never delivers on the potential of its concept, quickly squandering its more clever sci-fi elements to deliver something fairly weak when compared to old school thrillers like “Firestarter” or “The Fury.” Sadly, “Push” barely measures up to even the worst moments on “Heroes,” and it makes 20th Century Fox’s weaker superhero efforts look much better.