Usually when a new sci-fi film is about to hit the cinemas there is quite a lot of pre-release marketing hype surrounding it, and not surprisingly the amount of hype is inversely proportional to the quality of the film. PUSH, by British director Paul McGuigan (LAYER CAKE, LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN), certainly hasn’t been pushed by distributors and co-producers Icon, and using the theory about the ratio of hype to quality this should be a cracker. One of the advantages of the lack of marketing hoopla is there are no expectations when you see the film, which means you can let the story unfold without an preconceptions. I knew it was a film about people with special powers and it had a decent cast, with Chris Evans (the best one in the FANTASTIC FOUR movies), Dakota Fanning (a brilliant young actress who was probably one of the best things about WAR OF THE WORLDS), and Djimon Hounsou (BLOOD DIAMOND), but that was all I knew.
The best way I can describe this film is JUMPER meets THE STING by way of Heroes. Nick Grant (Evans) is born with the power of telekinesis (what they call a mover in the film) and he is being pursued by a US government agency known as the Division, whose mission is to round up all the people with psychic abilities so they can do experiments on them to build a superior army. The film opens with historical shots showing how the Nazis, the Soviets and the CIA all conducted these experiments (and probably still do). The irony is that the CIA helped develop LSD in the 60s as a mind control drug, and it ended up having the completely opposite effect.
So, Nick is hiding out in Hong Kong and trying to develop his powers, mostly by cheating at dice, when he meets Cassie (Fanning), a clairvoyant (watcher) who needs his help in recovering a briefcase with $6 million in it. In order to find the case they also have to find Kira (Camilla Belle), a pusher (someone who can control people’s minds – and nothing to do with the previous mention of LSD) who has escaped from Division, and knows the case’s whereabouts. Kira is also being pursued by Agent Carver (Hounsou), with the aid of some sniffs, human bloodhounds, and they are all being chased by a group Hong Kong psychics who are also interested in the briefcase.
The comparisons with JUMPER (of which this is vastly superior) and Heroes are pretty obvious – “ordinary” people with special powers being hunted by nefarious agencies – but you are probably wondering what the best scam film ever made has to do with a sci-fi action thriller? If you have seen McGuigan’s two previous films you will know that he likes to have complex plots with twists, turns and surprises and this one is more convoluted than LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN, especially with addition of psychic powers. It definitely doesn’t sell the sting as well as THE STING, but you still need to pay attention to what is going on if you don’t want to lose the thread. The film isn’t perfect and there are certain things that don’t withstand close inspection, but when you are juggling so many elements something is bound to give, but for the most part they are trivialities that only the hypercritical and people who watch films for things like continuity errors would pick up on, and they don’t detract from the overall movie.
Chris Evans is good in the lead and makes his character totally believable. Dakota Fanning’s performance is solid as usual, but it is clear she is no longer a child as she incites the same Lolita effect as Natalie Portman in LEON and Jodie Foster in TAXI DRIVER. Hounsou’s character is the complete antithesis of what he played in BLOOD DIAMOND. The rest of the characters are well cast and work well together on screen.
For the most part, film reviews are just about the writer’s opinions and tastes. After the screening I was talking with another reviewer and I said how much I enjoyed it, and made a passing comment about how overrated VICKI CHRISTINA BARCELONA was. He thought the VCB was a great film and didn’t really rate PUSH. I would definitely recommend seeing PUSH, especially if you are a Heroes fan. It has some great ideas, good action pieces, is well shot and definitely a lot better than most of the so-called genre blockbusters that have been out recently. Although the film is self-contained, it is nicely set up for potential sequels, but, like JUMPER, it would make a great TV series, which is where all the creative talent seems to be at the moment.
PUSH is out on general release now.