Friday, February 6, 2009

I Should've Been Pushed Away From This Movie

Push burrows deep into the deadly world of psychic espionage where artificially enhanced paranormal operatives have the ability to move objects with their minds, see the future, create new realities and kill without ever touching their victims. Against this setting, a young man and a teenage girl take on a clandestine agency in a race against time that will determine the future of civilization.

Push should be pulled from theaters. One long mistake from start to finish, this is a film that never gets its rhythms or bearing right. It always feels off, from the often clumsy performances to its by-the-numbers plot revelations to the big action scenes that are completely devoid of thrills.  The film's one great distinction is that it stars Dakota Fanning, and she is absolutely terrible. Fanning, veteran of more than 25 films at the ripe old age of 13, has never managed to even be mildly irritating in a role, much less actively bad. In this way, Push accomplishes the heretofore impossible. Watch her play drunk. Watch her play tough. Watch her tromp around in absurd punk boots. Wait a minute -- don't actually watch any of it. It's too embarrassing. Fanning plays Cassie, a psychic, one of many-many-many people here on Earth with paranormal gifts. She teams up with Nick (Chris Evans), who can move things with his mind, to rescue Kira (Camilla Belle), who has the ability to insert thoughts and beliefs in other minds. Somehow saving Kira is going to free all the imprisoned paranormal folks our government has in a hidden cage somewhere. Because Kira has been shot full of an experimental super-drug which ups her powers. Dastardly government bad guys -- does the government ever have good guys in movies anymore? -- are of course hunting Kira, and Cassie and Nick, and they've got superpowers of their own. For reasons that are never explained but likely have to do with tax incentives, all this takes place in Hong Kong. Which doesn't help it make sense but does keep things colorful. "Movers" can fling things around just by thinking it; "Watchers" can see the future; "Pushers" put ideas into people's heads, etc. Apparently, nations across the globe have been trying to create a race of super-psychics since the 1940s, except that every attempt ends in death. Before countless rooms and buildings are smashed, Chris and Cassie meet characters who can heal wounds, track suspects by following their scent or burst people's blood vessels by screaming really loud. That last one is especially relevant, as director Paul McDuigan amps up the visuals with a hyper-annoying mind's-eye effect, though there are a few kicky fight sequences involving flying objects and hurtling bodies (guns floating through the air, alas, look as silly as they ever did). More frequently, however, there's a lot of psych-speak, clunky backstory about a mysterious briefcase and Evans' rehearsed nonchalance. Maggie Siff has an eye-catching cameo as a healing femme fatale, and Hounsou glowers convincingly, but Belle is somehow even worse than she was in "10,000 B.C.." Watching Push, the viewer is free to get caught up in the exotic surroundings; Hong Kong is shot from all angles as a gritty, exuberant world unto itself. Growing to care about the human element is a tougher sell, not because the characters aren't worthy or likable, but because there is little payoff to them or their relationships. Instead of spinning a tale with a beginning, a middle, and an end, director Paul McGuigan is distracted with the possibility of having a franchise on his hands. Thus, as a whole, Push feels unfinished, its ultimate destination accounting for nothing more than a shrug. There is a fair amount to like here, and just as much to resent for how much better it could have been. A saddened 2 on my "Go See" Scale. This could've/should've been so much better.

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