Summit Entertainment // 2008 // 111 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // July 7th, 2009
One push can change everything.
Were audiences really begging for a marriage of Heroes and Mystery Men without the comedy? I can hardly imagine what went through the producers' minds when they green-lit this sad attempt at science fiction, but they couldn't have expected this confused mess.
During WWII, the Nazis began experimenting on people with psychic abilities, in an attempt to make them into human weapons. The Nazis were stopped, but the experiments continued. Now, a government organization called "The Division," has finally made a breakthrough. Kira (Camilla Belle, The Chumscrubber) is the first test subject to survive a serum injection designed to heighten psychic abilities, but she flips out and escapes. With her captors in pursuit, she finds help in a young future-seer (Dakota Fanning, Charlotte's Web) and a telekinetic (Chris Evans, Fantastic Four) who are fighting to stop The Division.
The trouble with Push starts with its characters, who possess the cheapest of all superpowers: those of the mind. These human weapons come in a number of specific forms. First, we have Pushers, the group Kira belongs. They can force ideas into your mind, making you believe things that aren't true. Next, we have Watchers. Dakota Fanning's Cassie is one of these and, like her fellow Watchers, have a future sight which is unclear, constantly changing, and notoriously unreliable. Chris Evans's Nick is a Mover, but his telekinetic abilities are suspect, at best. We also have Wipers, who can erase memories. They must have worked their magic on me, because I barely remember them. Shadows are virtually invisible, which makes casting them cheap. Stitchers are your basic AD&D clerics and, thus, totally worthless. Shifters can change shape and, though they don't have a lot to do in the film, are a likely subject for a sequel (if Summit decides to torture us with more of this). Bleeders scream very loud and painfully, though I'm not sure why they aren't called Screamers. It makes me wonder if something happened in a rewrite. Maybe to make the film less bloody? Who knows. Finally, we have what might be the worst special ability in the history of special abilities: Sniffers. Like their name, they're the bloodhounds of the psychics, but the trouble comes in watching them work. In order to locate their target, they literally take something the person owns and sniff it, for a long time. It's the only part of the film that provides any humor, unintentional as it may be. It's a pretty disgusting ability, one that must be quite demeaning to those afflicted with such a "gift."
With all of these different kinds of characters and multiple versions of each, it's easy to see how Push gets itself so confused. By trying to explain each to their fullest, the film is far too stuffed with exposition to understand where our heroes are coming from, or simply understand what's going on. When director Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin) can't adequately tell his story in nearly two hours, some cutting needs to happen. Moreover, some of the deleted scenes are more pertinent to the film than what's actually onscreen. So much for Nicolas Trembasiewicz' editing. Had they kept with the three main groups of psychics: the Pushers, the Movers, and the Watchers, the story would have been much less convoluted and we might have been able to understand even one of these characters.
It's hard to say if the characters would have been more understandable if the performances were better, but I doubt it. Nobody rises above mediocrity and nobody seems to have any better understanding of why they're there than I do. Dakota Fanning is particularly bad, blandly reading her lines and standing around like she really didn't want to be there. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but there's a scene where she gets drunk, ostensibly because that's what her Watcher mother did to get clearer visions. This is a girl who has clearly never been drunk. It is one of the worst drunk performances in the history of film and, though I'm glad she is sober, it is truly painful to watch.
Summit's release of Push is quite good, though that is feint praise given what is presented on the disc. The picture looks great. Though there are brief moments of grainy footage, this is clearly intended, even if the stylistic choice makes absolutely no sense. Colors are sharp and strong, blacks are deep, and flesh tones are virtually perfect. The sound is equally impressive, with active separation in all channels and very clear dialogue. The extras aren't copious, but decent overall. A commentary with McGuigan and some of the actors provides interesting behind-the-scenes stories, but hearing them congratulating themselves for this pile of garbage gets pretty old. The deleted scenes are mixed, but worth watching, if only for those few moments which better detail parts of the story than the film itself. The making-of featurette is exactly as you'd expect: fluffy and worthless.
There isn't a lot of good to say about this film, except for the cityscape. A compelling story could take place on the streets of this surreal Hong Kong. This one isn't it.
I wish I could say it was a hilarious sci-fi disaster on the level of Battlefield Earth, but it's just boring...and you can expect a sequel. It can't be too much worse, but being better is a near impossibility. The idea is just too slim to support itself.
Guilty. I hope I can push this film into the deepest recesses of my
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Summit Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes