by Mel Valentin
If you’re not getting enough of super-powered, super-heroic action via "Heroes" on NBC or Marvel Comics’ "X-Men," then "Push," directed by Paul McGuigan ("Lucky Number Slevin," "Wicker Park," "The Reckoning," "Gangster No. 1") and written by David Bourla, may be just your “speed.” Like any “fix” (legal or otherwise), "Push’s" limited pleasures are purely ephemeral (in other words, forgettable). Hyper-stylish, but alas hyper-derivative, "Push" is a stark reminder that February, like January, can be a cruel month. Moviegoers expecting or hoping against hope for quality entertainment based on the TV ads or the online trailers will be gravely disappointed by "Push" and its convoluted, action-light storyline.In Push, some mutants, “watchers,” can foresee the future (or rather future probabilities). Others, “movers,” are gifted (or cursed, depending on your perspective) with telekinesis. Still others, “pushers,” can convince anyone to do anything they want. Other mutants, “bleeders,” emit sonic vibrations that primarily affect organic matter. Lesser powers include “sniffs,” hyper-sensitive trackers, “shadows,” who can block sniffs and watchers (if only temporarily), “shifters,” who can create illusions, “stitchers,” psychic healers, and “wipers,” who can permanently erase short- and long-term memories. Some mutants are more gifted than others. Others just need training and practice to hone their skills. Nation-states and non-state groups vie for the services of the mutants, including, of course, the United States.
"...Or you can watch another sup-par episode of "Heroes."
Led by the inaptly named Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou), the “Division,” a super-secret, U.S. government agency, recruits mutants as living, breathing “weapons of mass destruction.” Non-cooperative mutants are captured, sedated, and imprisoned. Others are used for medical experiments to augment the mutants’ already awesome superpower. Kira Hudson (Camilla Belle), the first mutant to survive the augmentation experiment, manages to escape the super-secret government facility with a syringe filled with the experimental drug. For unexplained reasons, Kira heads West, to Hong Kong where she eventually runs into her ex-boyfriend, Nick Gant (Chris Evans), a mover living anonymously, and Cassie Holmes (Dakota Fanning), a young watcher, who predicts imminent doom for everyone.
Super-powered characters, mutant or supernatural, are nothing new in film, starting with Village of the Damned in 1960 (an adaptation of John Wyndham’s novel, The Midwich Cuckoos), the -sequel four years later, Children of the Damned, Carrie in the mid-seventies, The Fury in 1978, Scanners in 1980, Firestarter in 1983, the X-Men franchise which began nine years ago, with a semi-sequel, X-Men Origins: Wolverine only three months away, Minority Report six years ago, The 4,400 (2004-2007), Heroes (2006-Present), and now, of course, Push, which “borrows” heavily from its predecessors, especially The Fury, Firestarter, Scanners, and more recently, The 4,400 (a series everyone should have watched, but didn’t) and Heroes (a series everyone watched, once, but shouldn’t have). The star of The 4,400, Joel Gretsch, even appears in the first scene as Nick’s father.
Influences aside, Bourla and McGuigan lose Push in a confusing maze of watchers trying to out-predict each other (and the constantly changing future), the hero’s unconvincing transformation from a semi-competent mover to Jedi-level Force-power expertise, and the same hero’s inexplicably, randomly brilliant plan to outwit the second watcher and Carver, who has watchers of his own (offscreen). At times, it becomes impossible to follow the interweaving narrative threads, the motives for the characters, what they’re all so eager to obtain (why can’t the manufacturers make more?), and for a film marketed as an action-oriented science-fiction/thriller, a meager three set pieces (three and a quarter if you’re feeling generous) crammed in at 40 minute intervals to prevent moviegoers from nodding off intermittently.To be fair (because someone has to be), "Push’s" first and last set pieces are choreographed and directed with Hong Kong-flavored flair. Always a stylish director, McGuigan pulls out every trick in his repertoire to create viscerally charged action. What the producers forgot, however, was to give McGuigan a minimally coherent screenplay. As McGuigan surely knew (or learned), all the style in the world doesn’t help when the screenplay is short on originality or coherence. McGuigan also should have known that an engaging, watchable cast (e.g., Chris Evans, Camilla Belle, and Dakota Fanning) could only forestall the inevitably critical judgment that will follow the sequel-ready finale and the end credits.
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originally posted: 02/06/09 04:40:06