When I volunteered to review Push, the latest film by Pual McGuigan (of Wicker Park, and Lucky Number Slevin fame), I hoped I would finally have a replacement for my go-to movies Tomb Raider, and Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life.
You know your go-to movies. They’re those flicks you always feel like watching whenever you can’t figure out what else to pick from your collection of hundreds of DVDs. They are the old standbys for all those times you get overwhelmed by the embarrassment of riches that is your DVD collection.
Go-tos are the movies with plenty of fun visuals, which you’ve seen so many times you can leave them running in the background and engage them sporadically while you do the laundry, or read a book, or cook, or plot to take over the world. You wouldn’t want to try to plan the takeover of Earth watching Donnie Darko. How distracting would that be?
My expectations were, therefore, fairly high as I took my seat at the Hollywood 24.
The premise is fairly simple. The “Division” oversees our government's efforts to make psychic super soldiers. Metas who already have powers are “Movers” (telekinetics), "Pushers,” telepaths who implant commands, suggestions, and memories, “Watchers,” who read the future, “Sniffs,” who track prey, “Shadows” who hide metas by being close to them. Then there are Bleeders (like X-Men’s Banshee, except their sound waves blow your arteries), Wipers (memory erasers), Shifters (X-Men villain Mastermind) and Stitches (Raven from Teen Titans’s empathic healing).
The plot, and thankfully there is one, begins when Nick (Chris Evans), a down-on-his-luck American living in Hong Kong, is visited by a Watcher, Cassie, played by Dakota Fanning as a street urchin (think Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, except without the nasty child prostitution stuff) who recruits Nick in a scheme that goes awry, then hijinks ensue.
What’s refreshing about Push is the plot makes sense. Cause and effect blend, if not seamlessly, then with little apparent effort. By the end, the viewer “gets it.” Pieces fit together, and the viewer leaves satisfied with a fairly well constructed story.
What is lacking, however, is action. In a superhero film, which Push is, we’re trained to expect mind-blowing special effects, larger-than-life characters, and pulse-pounding action. My heart didn’t pound much at any point in the film.
There were bright spots, to be sure. The climax, set atop a skyscraper building site, offers much in the way of excitement. Metas, mostly Movers (whose special effects are, naturally, the most visual), duke it out. Pushers control legions of victims carrying out their will with no argument and no concern for their well-being. But the movie fails to deliver in its promise to astound.
Chris Evans plays irresponsible twenty-something very well. Just watch Fantastic Four, where his roguish charm permeates Johnny Storm. Dakota Fanning plays street imp with Kitty Pryde-esque aplomb, complete with badly dyed, multi-color hair.
The dialogue leaves much to be desired. Screenwriter David Bourla (scribe of classics Frankenthumb, Bat Thumb and The Godthumb) apparently spent more time writing a coherent plot than writing dialogue worthy of the attention to plot, and worthy of the capable cast. Exchanges between Nick and Cassie come across as far too cute. And, by criminy, he just didn’t write in enough cool stuff.
Where are the explosions?
Where are the curving bullets?
Where are the crazy shock waves blasting buildings?
Where’s the flipping eighteen wheeler? I wish there had been less blah blah blah and more bang-‘em-up. The trailers promised this. Where’s my bang-em-up?