Push (Paul McGuigan, 2009)

Cute little girl, psychic, in Hong Kong

There is that moment when you start watching Push, that you realize how much its premise seems to resemble Jumper. “Oh no,” you startle, “this can’t be.” But here are people with extraordinary powers, on the run from a government trying to weaponize them – lead by a black killer. “Not another borefest starring an unlikeable brat!” you say. But then it kind of turns out a lot better.

For one, it has a fresh Hong Kong setting as backdrop rather than nondescript American cities full of parking lots and diners. There’s a sense of mystique here. Triads, top-story tennis courts, exotic healers and bars straight out of Blade Runner. It establishes a strong visual identity for the film, full of color.

Then it stars Dakota Fanning as a prodigious, precocious tween that delights instead of grates. She pulls main role Chris Evans along with her strange visions of the future. As a catalyst, she foresees great gains and dangers awaiting them, and lo – Hong Kong is soon invaded by parties chasing them. This is an action movie and no mistake, but it spends more time than usual exploring its characters, among them Fanning. She has a rare charisma and makes Push shine.

The film isn’t terribly intelligent or novel. In fact, it taps greedily from the same vat Heroes drank out of. Heroes was such a daring series at the time, pushing the superhero hype onto mainstream television audiences. The show quickly spiraled out of control, but the first seasons were great. Its enduring attraction was figuring out how all the various superheroes and powers would clash, especially once people appeared who could absorb powers or predict the future. Push exploits that same idea. It features folk with farseeing minds and extrasensory abilities trying to outsmart one another. That’s just as enjoyable now as it was back then. Perhaps it could’ve used a little more smarts here and there, just a few more twists and cackle-bladders, to really challenge the audience. As it is, it’s adequate.

Forget the dime-a-dozen plot of bringing down a shady governmental division, literally called ‘Division’. It was boring in the Bourne series and it doesn’t offer much more here. In fact, the movie just forgets to wrap it up in the end. Possible sequel? Quite irrelevant. In taking no time to set things up and jumping into what feels like the third act right away, Push is thrilling and fun from the get-go. In that, it is so much better than weak Jumper, whose defining quality I would now say is providing a good scare once you start watching Push.

Roderick Leeuwenhart

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