Judge Eric Profancik has a whole pile of superpowers he's just waiting to spring on you.
Our review of Push, published July 7th, 2009, is also available.
One push can change everything.
What do you do when you don't have an interesting story, anecdote, or hook to start things off? Do you blame yourself or question why this is your first review to present such a situation? Is it the movie's fault then? It has to be the movie's fault since I have always shown a tendency to ramble on about nothing.
Facts of the Case
Nick Gant (Chris Evans, Fantastic 4) is doing his best to live under the radar. He has the power of telekinesis, but since he doesn't practice, he does it poorly. And he is not the only person with an ability. Scattered around the world are people with various "super" powers. Along with telekinesis are those who can see the future, heal via touch, do mind control, and other amazing skills. Of course there's an evil government agency called Division that keeps tabs on all these people, and they've just knocked on Nick's door. This event begins Nick's journey to find Kira (Camilla Belle, 10,000 B.C.), who is foretold to bring down Division. Helping him is Cassie (Dakota Fanning, Coraline), whose talent for seeing the future is as sketchy as Nick's talent; but she is certain that no matter what they do, they will die. Can Nick and Cassie outwit Division, find Kira, save the day, and not die?
I'm at a loss for words for Push. The movie is thoroughly middle-of-the-road entertainment. Neither exceptional nor horrible, it's hard to come up with a hook to wrap your review around. As such, this review may ramble around a bit less coherently than normal.
First up is the story. I've read—and heard on the commentary—about how confusing the movie is. I would disagree with that. There's a distinct difference between being confusing and slowly spelling things out—so that the pace makes things not immediately make sense. Push falls into the latter, as it's not a complicated tale. It simply needs some time to lay the foundation of its universe, and then take a bit more time in putting down its trail of breadcrumbs for the characters to follow. Push is just another amalgamation of previously viewed ideas ranging anywhere from X-Men to The Matrix to many other big name movies. But, again, it's not bad. It has a few glimmers of original thought, unfolding at a good pace, and has a pretty good climax. Yet the actual resolution feels hollow as you are knowingly left dangling in hopes of building a franchise. When all the fighting is done you are still wondering if they accomplished their goal or not.
One of the reasons I was originally interested in seeing this movie is because, of all things, I'm a mild fan of Chris Evans. I like the guy. He's a good, underrated actor. Take a gander at what he did in Cellular, and then realize he's the only thing that made the Fantastic 4 movies bearable. His unabashed joy at having powers—unlike Push where he isn't quite so enthusiastic—added the only life and fun to the movies. If I were to ever suddenly develop powers, I would hope I am as excited as Johnny Storm. Probably worthy of more attention that Mr. Evans is Dakota Fanning, clearly the better of the two actors. I found it interesting to watch her in this role, being a teenager. I still see her as the young girl from her earlier roles, and watching her mature on screen is an interesting pleasure. And though he's a wee bit underutilized, Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond) has a few moments to shine as the dastardly head of Division.
The other thing that got a bit of buzz, and also almost drew me to the theater, was the film's heavy use of practical special effects. Most of the CGI was eschewed in favor of doing things the old-fashioned way, and it shows. That gritty realism adds a little bit to the film, and while CGI is remarkable in its way (see Transformers 2 just for the CGI effects) it would be nice to do things practically more often. I thus give Push kudos for doing just that.
Last, and least in this case, is the fact that Push was filmed in Hong Kong. What's so special about that? It's impossible to clear a street to film anything. Instead of trying—and most certainly failing—they decided to film most of the outdoor scenes guerilla style. They would hide the cameras in vans or blinds and have the actors just do their thing in the middle of real people, on the street or in a busy marketplace. While adding more realism—on top of the practical effects—it's more interesting to realize how real people don't react to the things going on around them. Still, the realism is another plus to the movie.
So while I'm fairly lackluster on the film, it does have its positives. The acting is pretty decent, the story isn't bad but could use a bit of tightening, and I guess it's not the worst way to spend a couple of hours. Your mileage may vary and you may find more enthusiasm for Push and already be salivating for the potential sequel.
Push comes to us with a tasty 2.35:1, 1080p transfer that looks quite good but won't blow your socks off. I found colors crisp and accurate, a high level of detail, and solid contrast and definition. The director's palette choice, and sometimes which camera he used, gives some scenes a less than pristine look, but that is to the choice and not the transfer. I saw no errors as I watched. For the audio the only option is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is something you will certainly delight in. The transfer handles a wide range of situations from quiet dialogue, to city active, to little fights, to big climactic battles, all with ease. Everything was clean and clear with excellent dynamic range, ambience, and subwoofer power.
Bonus features are on the thin side and not especially good. First up is the audio commentary track with director Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin), Chris Evans, and Dakota Fanning. The track weaves and bobs from interesting to dull, but there's enough sprinkled throughout for a decent, overall listen. I like that they isolated each voice to his/her own speaker—left = Chris, center = Paul, and right = Dakota—not that it's hard to tell them apart, especially when Dakota is fairly quiet. Next up are some deleted scenes (3:19) with optional commentary by McGuigan. They are typical deleted fare, not really adding much to the story. And last is "The Science Behind the Fiction" (9:17), which is supposed to talk about the truth of these super/psychic powers and how that reality is applied in the film. That isn't really what came across to me, and I didn't particularly like the featurette.
Push is a decent movie that has a few moments that propel it along. At best, it's something to pass the time. The best I can muster up is a rental recommendation for this one. For those with more enthusiasm than I, the excellent transfers easily outweigh the weakness of the bonus material; and you'll find plenty of scenes to show off to your friends.
Push is hereby found guilty of being pushy.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Summit Entertainment
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