Push (2009) dir. Paul McGuigan
Starring: Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Djimon Hounsou, Bai Ling
“Push” has so many strikes against, it’s difficult to justify liking this film (plotholes, bad cine-logic, suspect performances etc). The familiar high concept sci-fi super powers tale feels a lot like leftovers of “Heroes”, “Jumper”, and even going way back to “Escape to Witch Mountain” (a remake of this is coming soon as well). But like the flawed yet strangely enjoyable “Jumper” there's something really fun about its distinct cinematic recklessness. "Push" is an instant guilty pleasure.
It’s a kind of an alternate yet contemporary earth world. Among the regular normal humans exists a number of individuals with special powers. An American government organization called ‘The Division’ tracks these individuals worldwide as a kind of omniscient clandestine police. These abilities have cool names like ‘movers’ (telekinesis), ‘watchers’ (clairvoyants),and more. ‘Pushers’ have the most dangerous ability which allows one to project thoughts onto another person’s mind.
Nick Gant (Chris Evans) is a 'mover', who’s burdened with memories of his murdered father (also a 'mover'). When a sprite young tweener 'watcher' Cassie Holmes (Dakota Fanning) foresees a way to take down the evil “Division’ Nick joins along for a rollercoaster ride of action and intrigue. Their mission is to find an escaped ‘pusher’ Kira Hudson (the silent but gorgeous Camilla Belle) and a mysterious briefcase which holds the key to destroying the Division.
It’s a great set-up, with a manageable number of special abilities, all with their own defined ‘rules’. In films like "X-Men" when there's a character like Storm who has the ability to create a tornado at will, it makes for an unfair and unrealistic fight. "Push" writer David Bourla give his heroes and villains modest abilities which never take it out of the realm of realism.
It all gets very complicated very quickly though. Kira's the obvious MacGuffin to find, but there’s also the briefcase, so which is it they need, the girl or the briefcase? This question is continually shifting, and it’s difficult to keep up. Gant’s elaborate third act plan which includes splitting up his comrades, erasing memories and recommunicating with them via a series of sealed written messages is confusing and too clever for it’s own good.
McGuigan’s cool factor is high octane though. He sets the world in Hong Kong - an exotic place full of rogue nourish characters, a melting pot of cultures, not unlike Casablanca or Blade Runner’s L.A. His colourful and wide-angled design pops right out of the screen and his gung-ho style channels the attitude of Honk Kong cinema influencers like Tsui Hark. Casting Dakota Fanning as the tough as nails driving force of the film is pretty cool as well. At one point she gets stinking drunk off a mickie of hard liquor as a way of improving her clairvoyance. I would have loved to see her brandish two guns John Woo style and kick some ass but unfortunately we're only teased with this possibility - maybe for the sequel.
Oh, and a sequel is coming… there’s just too much story to tell in two hours. A key subplot is not wrapped up, and saved for another chapter of the story. It’s a risky venture. This is what “Jumper” tried to do, but unfortunately its lack of success, means we probably won’t ever see the ending to that film. The heavy marketing to the graphic novel-reading fanboy demographic could turn this into minor little success.