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Push (2009)

by on 2013/05/16

Push (2009)

“I’m thirteen but I’ve been told I look at least fourteen.”

* * *

The director Paul McGuigan has really impressed me recently, with his feature Lucky Number Slevin, and the BBC series, Sherlock. I was less impressed, unfortunately, with this superhero opus, Push.

It’s listed online as a Canadian co-production, but shows little evidence of it. Its lack of overt CanCon, however, doesn’t factor in my disappointment. It’s rather being an average sci-fi thriller with exceptional good looks.

We learn in a prologue to the main action that Nazis were responsible for forking humanity into two groups by experimenting with psychic powers. In the present day, world governments conduct similar trials, and the Americans have developed a serum which boosts such powers even more. When the latest sample is stolen, they send “Division” to retrieve it, while a Chinese family seeks it for themselves.

Caught between them is a clutch of young people with powers of their own, and various reasons to despise Division. Nick (Chris Evans) has telekinesis; Cassie (Dakota Fanning) has clairvoyance; Kira (Camilla Belle) has telepathy; and so on.

Try as I might to avoid it, all I could think of were other, better movies. I was expecting something like the X-Men. Instead, it was more like a metahuman Adventures in Babysitting. Or a kiddie Mission: Impossible, with a group on the run in Hong Kong.

Likewise, each team member has a specialty: moving, watching, pushing . . . with auxiliary help from shadows, bleeders, stitches, anyone the script needs. Their world seems totally unbalanced, with nearly all of the cast being “special”. (Remember what The Incredibles taught us . . . here, here, and here?)

Whatever the plot requires is suddenly possible with a minor character, and their walk-on deus ex machina ability. This crutch reminded me of the laziest part of Paycheck, where any random object could be interpreted as significant.

And then, to resolve the predicament of being painted into a corner, a lead character’s memory is wiped.

And then (part two) just as conveniently, the amnesia later proves no hindrance.

They’re making it up as they go, I thought. As I watched, I jotted this down: “it either doesn’t have rules, or it doesn’t play by them”.

Admittedly, I was too dazzled to think very critically. For, if nothing else, we are carried along by dynamics, speed, and pacing. That the effects are good are nearly a given with today’s post-production technology. More impressive to me were the subtle-yet-striking visuals.

The colours are super-saturated, with a healthy appreciation for grain. Musical montages and segues make use of differing shutter speeds, handheld cameras and, apparently, 16mm stock. (It almost, though never quite, verges on goofy kitsch.) Opening shots and stills are framed with postcard composition.

It’s undeniably pretty, maybe beautiful, and definitely sumptuous but, honestly, I didn’t get what it’s in aid of. My mind eventually wandered around to wondering who it was for, being about kids while inappropriate for them, unless they enjoy subtitled Cantonese, coarse language, and a whole lot of violence.

I’m not saying that Push is bad, per se, though I do think you’ll get the most out of it by watching it only before you have been spoiled by Inception or Akira.

* * *

Rated 14A (Canada) / PG13 (United States)

111 minutes

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