Wednesday, May 13, 2009

PUSH: A Messy Puzzle Set In Hong Kong

PUSH (sci-fi thriller)
Cast: Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Camilla Belle, Djimon Hounsou, Joel Gretsch, Neil Jackson, Maggie Siff, Scott Michael Campbell, Colin Ford and Nate Mooney
Director: Paul McGuigan
Time: 110 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning in Hong Kong

PREAMBLE: If you can't get enough of superhuman exploits from X-Men Origins: Wolverine or TV's Heroes, you may want to give Push a try. However, unlike the aforementioned series, Push is rather messy and awkward in terms of its narrative. It tries to bend logic a bit...

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Nazi medical experiments get out of control and a race of superhumans is born. These include 'movers' who move objects with their mind; 'watchers' who can predict the future; 'pushers' who can control other people's thoughts; 'sniffers' who can trace your history simply by touching objects you leave behind; 'shifters' who can change the appearance of things; 'wipers', who can delete one's memories; and 'stitchers' who have the ability to heal others.

The Government is aware of these weirdos and has set up a Division to train them as 'weapons'. The Division is also working on a drug to enhance their mental powers but, all the test subjects die after being injected with the serum, except for Kira (Camilla Belle), a pusher who flees to Hong Kong and is pursued by the Division's agent, Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou).

Also in Hong Kong are two other fugitives: Nick (Chris Evans), a mover who is also Kira's former lover, and Cassie (Dakota Fanning), a 13-year-old pusher who sketches scenes of the future in her notebook. All these 'special people' want to get their hands on Kira because she holds the key to what they want for themselves or their mission.

HITS & MISSES: Screenwriter David Bourla seems to throw us into his murky world (Hong Kong, actually) of powerful freaks without the necessary backgrounder to clarify what's really happening in this hide-and-seek game. We have to figure them out for ourselves and then discover that most of the plot mechanics are badly contrived.

Director McGuigan tries to fashion an epic tale of mental warfare with a narrative that teems with unfamiliar terms, unexplained powers, and undefined allegiances. All these result in confusion and absurdity. I have no major issues with the cast, of which Dakota Fanning must be the 'darling'. She seems to be having fun with her role, dressed in miniskirt, boots and multi-coloured hair. (Never mind if she knows what is happening herself).

Hounsou and Neil Jackson (as his sidekick, Victor) are hissable enough as the relentless captors, while Camilla Belle is as wooden as usual in what must be an eye-candy role as the prey.

THE LOWDOWN: A messy puzzle not worth piecing together.


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