It's an indie riff on a genre that's come to dominate multiplexes ever since Keanu Reeves denied the existence of a spoon ten years ago, blessed with a fun mythology and a praiseworthy decision to set the whole shebang in Hong Kong. It's kept alive by its cool ideas and a few diverting set-pieces from British director Paul McGuigan, but beyond that Push is exposed as flaccid bore. In a lethargic 111 minutes, it barely approximates the infectious fun of its own trailer...
A pre-credit back-story informs us that the Nazi's tried to create Übermensch in 1944, the descendants of whom have now become a subclass of society with supernatural abilities at their disposal -- categorized thus: "watchers" (clairvoyancy), "movers" (telekinesis), "pushers" (mind control), "bleeders" (er, destructive screams), "sniffers" (psychometry), "shifters" (hallucinations), "shadows" (power dampeners), and others.
The mutants are being rounded up by global Divisions, one led by "mover" Agent Carver (Djimon Hounsou, reprising his role from The Island), who's trying to find a mutant called Kira (Camilla Belle) because she survived an ability-boosting injection which usually proves fatal, singling her out as a valuable Patient Zero. It's not long before Cassie's old flame, "mover" Nick (Fantastic Four's Chris Evans, stereotyped?), and precocious teen "watcher" Cassie (Dakota Fanning) are caught up in the melee, trying to help Kira survive with the help of various allies across the city.
It all sounds far more exciting on the page than it feels on the screen, sadly. McGuigan has a flair that make a few sequences more successful than they perhaps would have been without his involvement (a scene of exploding fish during a market foot-chase, the other a face-off with floating handguns at a restaurant), but the script by David Bourla doesn't coalesce its neat ideas into anything particularly gripping, or even that comprehensible. I spent the film hoping TV's Heroes learns a thing or two from Push's sense of realism and focus, but contrarily lamented the fact McGuigan hadn't taken that superhero drama's early sense of heart, pace and a storyline people could grasp and invest themselves in.
As it stands, there's little emotional connection to anything going down here, the distinction between heroes and villains is vague, and a number of plot-points left me confused -- like why the nasty Division is comprised of those they "hunt", and why mutants would be against getting a jab that will now ensure they'll be twice as powerful. Assumedly that would make them extremely employable by the government (as if they're not already!) and that surely beats scratching out a living from a Chinese tenement block, no?
directed by: Paul McGuigan written by: David Bourla starring: Chris Evans (Nick Grant), Dakota Fanning (Cassie Holmes), Camilla Belle (Kira Hudson/Hollis), Djimon Hounsou (Agent Henry Carver), Ming-Na (Emily Hu), Cliff Curtis ("Hook" Waters), Nate Mooney ("Pinky" Stein), Corey Stoll (Agent Mack), Scott Michael Campbell (Agent Holden), Maggie Siff (Teresa Stowe), Paul Car (Wo Chiang), Xiao Lu Li (The Pop Girl), Kwan Fung Chi (Pop Boy #1), Jacky Heung (Pop Boy #2), Haruhiko Yamanouchi (Pop Father), Joel Gretsch (Nick's Father) & Colin Ford (Young Nick) / Summit Entertainment / 111 mins. / $38 million (budget) / www.push-themovie.com