Push | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


Surface flash can't save this warmed-over action flick about psychics on the run

click to enlarge Hong Kong phooey: Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning
Hong Kong phooey: Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning

"Pushers," in the universe of Paul Guignan's sci-fi-ish actioner, are super-abled psychic folks who can stare at you real hard, and boom! change your thoughts. Why, yes, I would like to remember something that never happened, kill my friend, tell everybody about this great new movie called Push ...

Hey, Push people: Get. Out. Of. My. Head. Stop using a bunch of distracting, cheesy rizz-razz and warmed-over thriller clichés to make me think that this movie is any good.

Push starts where so many bad films begin -- with a pointless flashback and a brainload of cumbersome set-up via voice-over. Walking among us are ordinary people with extra-ordinary powers. Besides the aforementioned pushers, there are watchers (can see the future), movers (can move things telekinetically), bleeders (can emit high-pitched screams to make blood pour from your ears) and sniffers (can track your past by deeply inhaling near your toothbrush).

Most of these gifted sorts are in lockdown by a shadowy government group known as Division, which hopes to harness these peculiar skills for ... uh, world domination? (It wasn't very clear what Division's exact goals are, so why stop at anything less.)

But others are hiding out in Hong Kong -- Division will never find me in this chaotic, dense, smelly place! -- among them Nick the mover (Chris Evans), a teen-age watcher named Cassie (Dakota Fanning) and Kira (Camilla Belle), a pusher recently escaped from Division. Naturally, they're pursued by Division, and also a local Chinese family of watchers, bleeders and movers, and everybody is also hunting for a briefcase, $6,000,000 or a syringe -- or, hell, maybe just an exit.

Push is all surface. No character ever expresses how awful it must be to have these abilities -- and to be hunted for them. (Likewise, it's presented de facto that such hyper-skilled people will be under government control.) Look, we're post-Matrix -- we can handle some meat; even the X-Men franchise does a little soul-searching.

Fanning is the film's only real star, but her coltish good looks, vivacious personality and Hot Topic wardrobe make her character seem beamed in from another movie, something lighthearted and bubbly for tweeners, and not the harrowing tale of a homeless 14-year-old who keeps getting flashes of her own demise.

You don't need to be psychic to see that much of Push is an incoherent mess. This might be forgivable if the film had some cinematic verve, take-a-wild-ride energy or even decent action sequences.

But the freak-on-freak battles are laughably bad: Movers levitate their discharging guns, leaving their hands free to generate shiny pockets of solid air that deflect incoming bullets. And a full-on screamer assault naturally takes place in a live-fish market, resulting in the repeated explosion of holding tanks. If you ever wanted to see Fanning get washed away by a wave of gasping fish, this is your movie.

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