Sunday, February 8, 2009

Push review

My review of Push appears online at

Starring Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning
Directed by Paul McGuigan
2 stars

By Andrea Warner

Superhero movies are a dime a dozen lately, but with the success of last year’s acclaimed cinematic marvels (The Dark Knight, Iron Man), aspiring “blockbusters” with smaller budgets need to puff up their flashy packages with brains, brawn, and big names. Push, the latest film to flirt with the genre, knows its limitations and thankfully opts for the quirky route.

Push opens on 12-year-old Nick, a second-generation “pusher”, who watches his father die at the hands of Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou — seen slumming here, but still a step above his last effort, Never Back Down), the leader of the Division, a malevolent organization dedicated to building on Nazi research to amplify psychic abilities through medical enhancements. Got it?

Of course, this means the Division is rounding up the world’s most powerful mutants to conduct their evil tests. Fast forward ten years and Nick (a charming Chris Evans) is one of several American ex-pats with super powers living in Hong Kong, trying to evade capture. He is approached by Cassie (Dakota Fanning looking like a teen prostitute from Ghost World), a 13-year-old “watcher” who can see bursts of the future, who enlists his help to save both her mother and the world.

A convoluted story follows, with plenty of tricks, twists, and turns to keep an audience’s curiosity piqued — if never truly enthralled. Some unusual villains, including a Chinese family full of powerful, brain-melting screamers, make for amusing moments, but stale dialogue and repeated use of the same tired flashbacks wares on the nerves.

Director Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin, Wicker Park) has never met a strange camera angle he doesn’t like (above, below, swooping crane), and alternates, seemingly without any reason, between rich, saturated images and grainy, hand-held shots. He does, however, have a knack for creative casting, with plenty of familiar faces showing up in unexpected places (Maggie Siff from Mad Men, Cliff Curtis from Whale Rider). All together, McGuigan’s vision ultimately nudges Push into position as an entertaining — if mostly forgettable — addition to the superhero/sci-fi cannon.

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