DVD Review: “Push”

Written by DVD Reviews, Film

DV3Evc44e4V85a_lPush (2009, Summit Entertainment)
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It’s obvious that the makers of the film Push thought they had a winner on their hands because, with an ending that left several loose ends, they set up everything for a sequel. Alas, writer David Bourla and director Paul McGuigan got ahead of themselves and failed to make sure their film was good enough to merit a follow-up. Moreover, by blatantly catering to a younger crowd, they actually dumbed down what could have been a fun thrill ride of a movie. Push has a cool premise, some gnarly effects, memorable images of screaming Chinese mutants, and some pretty actors to look at — but it’s lacking in many aspects: its dialogue, the direction of the actors, and a little discretion in how Dakota Fanning was filmed, to name a few. When all is said and done, despite the merits of the film, Push just isn’t a great movie.

Chris Evans (the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies) is a part of new breed of human beings. The film doesn’t come right out and say mutants because I’m sure they didn’t want to draw comparisons to the X-Men, but that’s what these people are. Evans’s “Nick” is a “mover,” meaning he has the ability to move objects with his mind. He’s living as an expatriate in Hong Kong, trying to stay out of the clutches of a shadowy U.S. government branch called “Division.” Division kidnaps these special humans and is injecting them with a serum they hope will augment their powers to make them a superhuman weapon. No one has survived, except one. Her name is Kira (Camille Belle) and she is a Pusher.

I should pause to explain that there are different types of these mutan—er, special humans. They include: Movers, like Nick; Pushers, who can plant thoughts or memories in your head; Watchers, who can see the future; Bleeders, who have a banshee scream that makes your ears bleed; Sniffers, who can smell a personal item and see a detailed past of the person who owned it; Stitchers, who can mend people (or break their bones with a thought) and Shadows, who can mask a person’s location for other mutants. You can see why the government wants these gifted humans. They could come in handy in the war on terrorism.

Back to the plot. Kira escapes from the clutches of Division with a vial of this serum and flees to Hong Kong to find Nick. We soon find out that they were once lovers. Fanning is a smart-ass Watcher named Cassie who’s seen the future, and it doesn’t look good (most of her visions involve Nick and her dying). However, as she tells us constantly, the future can be altered and Cassie hopes that she and Nick can prevent their own deaths, find a briefcase with the secret serum (i.e. locate Kira), and save Cassie’s mother, a powerful Watcher who has been held by Division since Cassie was a little girl. As should happen in a film like this, Kira and Nick reconnect, and all hell breaks loose.

Division agents, led by a badass Pusher named Carver (Djimon Hounsou) – we know he’s bad because, wait for it, he smokes a big cigar – give chase to Nick, Cassie and Kira. At the same time, a group of Chinese gangster mutants who want the vial join in the manhunt for the three heroes (this is where the kickass Chinese Bleeders come in). Nick, Cassie and Kira are chased throughout Hong Kong and must use their special (MUTANT!) abilities to survive.

Sounds pretty bitchin’, right? There are parts of this movie that I really like. The Hong Kong setting was unique; It gave the entire movie a claustrophobic look and unique backgrounds that you don’t see very often in American action films. Whenever the evil Chinese bleeders come on screen they’re so freaky looking I got goose bumps. The fight between Nick and the Division mover (Neil Jackson) is pretty cool, too (although the suspended guns in one scene looked so bad I expected Tom Servo to make a comment). All of the actors have enough charisma to star in a movie by themselves, let alone get paired with the others in Push. And the score is just terrific, complementing many of the nicely done action sequences.

But Push fails in the worst possible way: Its script. You hear all the time that a script needed a major rewrite, and in this case it’s true. First of all, the dialogue in Push is so clichéd and expository that I cringed each time any of the characters began to speak in fear of something ridiculous about to be said. Perhaps some of it would have worked if the actors had spoken their lines with more conviction. Evans and Fanning are two really good actors, but when they spit out lines of gobbledygook like they know it’s gobbledygook, you don’t believe a word they say. Look at The Matrix, a film full of so much techno jargon it could’ve been a parody. Yet all of the performers in that film were so convincing in everything they said that as a viewer, I didn’t stop to think whether it made sense or not.

Another problem with the film was its lack of mystery. The voiceover narration explains too much. Instead of thrusting the viewer into this world and gradually revealing what the different people can do, we get Fanning’s monotone voiceover spoonfeeding the history of Division and the mutants. Again, what makes a film like The Matrix so great is that it sucks us into the craziness along with Keanu Reeves making the audience active participants in the movie instead of just observers. It’s as if the filmmakers didn’t trust the viewer to follow the story. Bummer, because Push is one of those films I really wanted to like. In fact there are so many cool elements to it that I can’t come right out and say I hate it. Problem is, I know I won’t go back and watch it again, because the crap outweighs the art and in the end, cool effects never trump story when it comes to making a winning movie.