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PUSH (2009)*** movie review by COOP

Posted on February 11th, 2009
Posted on February 11th, 2009


For those keeping up with recent comic book films/franchises like “X-Men” and “Heroes,” the concept of “Push” will ring a familiar bell. A story about teams of super-powered underdogs fighting for justice won’t win any awards for originality. What separates “Push” from the regular genre ilk is its visual style and a strong desire to create a clear and fascinating mythology.

In modern day Hong Kong, low level “mover” Nick (Chris Evans) scrapes by trying to cheat at illegal gambling as he hides out from an organization known as “Division.” Like his deceased father, Nick can move things with his mind, but he’s not very good at it. Enter a street-smart, psychic “watcher” named Cassie (Dakota Fanning) who claims to know Nick’s future. If Nick doesn’t help her rescue a “pusher” named Kira (Camilla Belle), they are all doomed to die. Kira, a fugitive from a special “Division” project, has the most dangerous power of them all: She can control people’s minds. With another dangerous pusher (Djimon Hounsou) on their tails, Nick and Cassie must team up with other super powered fugitives in order to outsmart “Division,” save Kira and prevent a grim future.

I appreciate how the creators stuck with a particular type of super power and developed a detailed plot that makes the most out of the concept. Instead of guys with super-strength, gadgets, energy beams and metal claws, you get heroes whose powers are based solely on the fact that their minds have been altered. For instance, “movers” have an appealing power because they can block bullets and toss people around, but the novelty of that power pales in comparison to the ones that can predict and track your every move. “Pushers” seem weak but, given some imagination, they can trick anyone into doing anything and turn enemies against themselves. “Sniffs” can psychically track you down, but “shadows” can block that power. “Watchers” trump “sniffs” and “shadows” but the power is unreliable due to the fact that the future constantly changes. The whole thing is like a comic book-inspired chess game, making the complex plot enjoyable as you watch it unfold.

I had a few complaints… The plot was so complex, they fudged a few details and handicapped a few powers in order to achieve the desired conclusion. There were many instances in which characters failed to use their powers during obvious, opportune moments. “Bleeders” have the oddball, physical-based talent of screaming people to death, so they didn’t really fit in with the mythology. The story became slow due to lack of action as the protagonists had to spend most of their time coming up with plans to outwit those tracking them. I would have preferred more action since the telekinetic fights between the two movers, Nick and Victor, were more exciting than any super-powered fight I’ve seen.

Chris Evans, while adequate, has and always will be a generic actor until he finds a role that clearly defines his talents. 14 year-old Dakota Fanning almost distracts from the story because she talks more like an adult than her fellow co-stars. I’d say she’s above this type of work, but I’ve never warmed to her. Perhaps this is her attempt to avoid typecasting. I found Camilla Belle’s performance much more engaging, but she gets less screen time than some of the minor characters. Always count on the reliable Djimon Hounsou as an Oscar-quality actor who comes across as likable, even when playing a bad guy. I’m sending out a special nod to supporting actor, Neil Jackson who scored the most intimidating role as Victor, a bullet-blocking mover who causes a commendable level of carnage during the scarce action scenes.

With an exotic setting, a rich mythology and an original superhero plot, “Push” makes for good sci-fi if not good filmmaking. Count this as a warm-up to the most anticipated comic book movie of the year, “Watchmen” coming out on March 6th. “Push” has very little in common with “Watchmen,” but it’ll satisfy the itch.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Neato trailer below-o…

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