(director: Paul McGuigan; screenwriter: David Bourla; cinematographer: Peter Sova; editor: Nicolas Trembasiewicz; music: Neil Davidge; cast: Chris Evans (Nick Gant), Dakota Fanning (Cassie Holmes), Camilla Belle (Kira Hudson), Cliff Curtis (Hook Waters), Djimon Hounsou (Henry Carver), Nick’s Father (Joel Gretsch), Agent Mack (Corey Stoll), Ming-Na (Emily Hu), Nate Mooney (Pinky Stein), Paul Car (Wo Chiang), Haruihko Yamanouchi (Pop Father), Xiao Lu Li (Pop Girl), Kwan Fung Chi (Pop Boy #1), Jacky Heung (Pop Boy #2); Runtime: 121; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Bruce Davey/William Vince/Glenn Williamson; Summit Entertainment; 2009-in English/some Cantonese with English subtitles)
“This is the kind of film where nothing makes sense, it’s one huge plot hole. And if that wasn’t negative enough, it’s witless, boring, shallow and too talky.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Push is a glum, cartoonish, and obtusely plotted sci-fi film. An action thriller that is quickly forgotten, since it’s over-the-top nonsensical, has a dizzying effect in presenting its hodgepodge of visuals, no character is clearly developed, its action sequences are ostentatious but not that effective and it packs no emotional vitality. In other words, this one plays out as an empty video game like venture that poses as a wannabe “X-Men” film.

So-so director Paul McGuigan (“Lucky Number Slevin”/”Wicker Park”/”Acid House”) uses David Bourla’s impenetrable screenplay to drop us into an unimaginative eerie surreal Hong Kong filled with neon signs and partially built skyscrapers and a slew of freaks possessing a variety of psychic powers. They are classified as “pushers,” “watchers,” “movers,” “bleeders,” “wipers,” “healers,” “sniffers” and an assortment of other paranormal ‘whatevers’ — all these social outcasts are the result of Nazi eugenic experiments back in the early 1940s, as the Nazis wanted to train those identified with super psychic powers to be soldiers and used as the ultimate in biological weapons. After the war America secretly continued these unethical Nazi experiments under the auspices of a shadowy government organization called Division, led by the sinister top agent Henry Carter (Djimon Hounsou). We are repeatedly told that Division uses these freaks as guinea pigs for its own nefarious purposes to create the ultimate weapon. To make things more confusing and give it a more Hong Kong flavoring, there’s a mysterious Chinese gang run by the family’s patriarch and his “watcher” daughter and her two nasty bug-eyed brothers who are “bleeders” and whose screams can shatter your ear drums. The Chinese thugs are trying to get hold of the deadly mysterious power-enhancing drug used by Division on the paranormals for their own nefarious purposes and thereby be a major player on the world stage (how this would be so, is never explained). Added to the mix is the American Kira (Camilla Belle), a “pusher” (not a drug dealer, but someone who can lay a false reality into another’s mind). She’s a bland character who becomes a major player because the escapee from Division, the only human subject to survive the experimental drug treatment, is involved with both the good guys and the bad guys and her allegiances are not clear (you see, the lady is a “pusher”).

The good guy is the scruffy twentysomething “mover,” a telekinetic named Nick Gant (Chris Evans), who watched his father killed ten years ago by Division defending his right to be a good guy freak and this second generation freak has been hiding on the grid ever since; the good girl is the 13-year-old “watcher” named Cassie. Her shtick is to draw her futuristic visions in her black sketchbook with her gel pen. Cassie’s mom was supposedly the best “watcher,” but was captured and killed by Division.

These two oddball strangers connect through Cassie’s clairvoyant powers in Nick’s dinghy HK flat, and team together because the miniskirt wearing Cassie needs Nick’s help to track down Kira (who was once Nick’s girlfriend). Kira is valuable because she can lead them to the mysterious suitcase containing a syringe filled with the mysterious serum, which we are told is key to bringing down the bad guy clandestine Division (which I guess is supposed to explain almost everything about this preposterous story, if you hang with this mess until its less than thrilling climax ends on its less than clear note).

Through Cassie’s eyes, the filmmaker tries to explain the plot every so often and the more Cassie tries to explain things the less sense it makes and the more the rhythm of the storytelling is jarred. The only thing the film has going for it is cinematographer Peter Sova’s throbbing pop culture photo shoot of the depraved underbelly of Hong Kong, that passes for comic book art and is about as creative as this hokum film ever gets.

This is the kind of film where nothing makes sense, it’s one huge plot hole. And if that wasn’t negative enough, it’s witless, boring, shallow and too talky.

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