Directed by: Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin)
Starring: Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Djimon Hounsou, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis
Call it a case of diminished expectations, but going into Paul McGuigan’s Push, I expected the worst. Part of this had to do with the goofy trailer that looked a bit too much like last year’s dreadful Jumper. But more of it had to do with one local theater manager telling me as I got my ticket that Push was one of the 10 worst movies he’d ever seen. Because of this, I went in expecting some sort of spectacularly wrongheaded disaster of a movie not seen since 10,000 BC (2008).
Much to my chagrin—since I was almost looking forward to the unintentional entertainment of such a disaster—I instead found out that Push is not the monumental train wreck I had been hoping for, but a perfectly adequate action movie. While I can’t rank it anywhere near the 10 worst movies I’ve ever seen (I can think of 10 worse movies playing in theaters right now), Push isn’t exactly what I’d call a good movie. Sure, the movie is slick enough, but it’s never as clever as its twisting, turning plot thinks it is, or half as cool as it tries to come across as.
The comparison to Jumper still stands. Both films feature superpowers, secret agencies and whatnot. What makes Push the obviously superior film is its cast. Chris Evans is no Hayden Christiansen (thank goodness), and has somehow rounded out into an appealing leading man (maybe making a movie with Danny Boyle will do that to a person). Djimon Hounsou could play his brooding, stately villain character while comatose. Even Dakota Fanning, who’s in her full-on awkward teenage years, comes across somewhat naturally, even if she’s inexplicably and uncomfortably tarted up as a tween mall-Goth.
In a plot that would be more at home in a comic book, the movie centers around Nick (Evans), a guy who’s hiding out in the slums of Hong Kong from a U.S. government agency called Division. It seems Nick, like his father before him, is a “Mover,” meaning he has telekinetic powers that allow him to move objects with his mind, even if he’s pretty lackluster at it. Actually, there seem to be all types and varieties of psychic superpowers floating around out there, from clairvoyants to healers to people who can scream really loud and blow up fish tanks (no one explains what this has to do with powers of the mind).
Since Division is an evil government agency, they like to capture those with special endowments and experiment on them while wearing lab coats. All this is going fine and dandy until one of their subjects (Camilla Belle, 10,000 BC) escapes with a vial of some sort of mind steroid used to boost powers, and every fashion-forward superpower type in Asia goes after it, including Division, Nick and a family of cat-eyed Asian screamy types. Never mind that whatever’s in the needle automatically kills anyone who uses it; we wouldn’t have a plot without it.
In some ways, the movie is David Croneberg’s Scanners (1981), except with all the intelligence and fun removed in exchange for a convoluted plot that never makes good sense and doesn’t hold up under much scrutiny. But it’s vaguely entertaining, somewhat diverting—if a bit overlong—and McGuigan makes the most of his Hong Kong locales. It’s just not a movie to get too excited over. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, brief strong language, smoking and a scene of teen drinking.