Movie Review by Samuel Taradash
Starring: Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Camilla Belle, Djimon Hounsou
Director: Paul McGuigan
Starting during from opening credits montage and voiceover, PUSH plays like it was meant to be a TV series. In voiceover, Cassie (Dakota Fanning) explains the secret history of government controlled psychics, starting with the Nazis in World War Two and running up to the present day. Are we supposed to equate psychics with Jews, persecuted for their differences? It doesn’t matter, since we’re ready for our establishing scene: after his father is killed trying to protect him from evil government psychics, Nick (Chris Evans) is doomed to a life on the run. Jump to Hong Kong, where Cassie, a junior-high mentalist who can see the future, seeks Nick’s help. With her mother’s fate, and the fate of all independent psychics in the world, hanging in the balance, Nick and Cassie must take a stand against Carver (Djimon Honsou) and his evil government division called Division.
Yes, the division is called “Division”. The people who move things with their minds are called “movers”, ones who see the future are called “watchers”, and ones who can track like ESP bloodhounds are called “sniffs”. That’s about as clever as it gets. Perhaps that’s why the otherwise sharp cast, which includes Camilla Belle, Maggie Siff, Cliff Curtis, Ming-Na and Nate Mooney, never really seems to click. Everyone has a role to play in advancing the story, but director Paul McGuigan just doesn’t know or care how those roles should fit together.
The Hong Kong scenes are frenetic, lively, and rich with detail and color. Crowded streets forced McGuigan to do some shooting on open streets with cameras hidden in parked vans, lending a CCTV realism to scenes. The scenes of precognition are grainy, disorienting, and punchy, lending some power to the first third. And fight scenes are crisp, with clean choreography and good special effects that suggest power without being distracting. But there’s just no chemistry anywhere and the dialogue is utilitarian at best. Even Djimon Hounsou and Dakota Fanning are unable to get any traction.
As a summer popcorn movie, PUSH could have been a lot of fun. But the many plot holes make it too rough to enjoy. How does Nick, who couldn’t control 10 grams worth of dice or fend off a local bully at the start, somehow learn to deflect bullets and engage in brain-whammy fisticuffs by the end? How well could any of Nick’s allies have been hiding from Division if he could find them all in an afternoon? Why do blond-haired blue-eyed men get to shove things and fight, while most of the women have sensory or healing powers, Asian men screech enemies to death and Black men can deceive and confuse people? Do normal people figure in this ESP power struggle? And why should the audience care about any of this? Maybe you need ESP to work that out too.