Thursday, March 05, 2009


Peeking Around Corners

Push is one of those movies that gives you the deja-vu feeling that it's a quick hack job, because from the trailer alone, images of X-men as well as Star Wars come racing through your mind, what with talk about being born with special powers akin to being a mutant wanted by government agents, as well as in execution of those abilities as fluidly like a Jedi Knight would, with mind-tricks, Force Push and a prophecy to fulfil.

It takes place in today's world, where some folks get to be born with powers that The Division (aka the Dark Side) classifies into broad terms like Pushers, Movers, Watchers, Sniffs, Shadows, Shifters, Wipers and Bleeders. Naturally there are good and bad guys within those classes, and The Division are a select few who have government backing to operate like Nazis and conduct experiments to make them all stronger, for weaponization (yes, the DNA of the USA is to weaponize everything). The good guys though are not organized and are forever on the run from The Division, until a few of them decide to band together and fight for their rights.

At least that would be a tad more interesting. Instead, we get a grouping of half-past-six heroes who have idled their potential and not honed it to perfection. Chris Evans' Nick Gant is a drifter who spends his time trying to hone his powers to win in illegal street gambling. He's a mover, and one day gets found out by Dakota Fanning's Watcher just because she sees him in her hallucinatory state from the impressionistic pictures she constantly draws on a sketch pad. A lotus prophecy (it's set in Hong Kong you see) tells this second-generation power couple to band together in their common quest to find Kira Hudson (Camilla Belle), a one time ex-flame of Nick's, and a mysterious briefcase, where by their powers and artifacts combine, they can bring down The Division, kinda like a solo shot in the dark to blow up the Death Star.

Only that the promise doesn't actually get delivered because Push decided to dwell a lot on the bickering and planning stage, while leaving the intended finale either forgotten conveniently, or set aside for a straight to DVD sequel. So what makes this interesting? Apparently I got my kicks out of watching the characters here struggle with their Cantonese. And as an action movie, it sure does have its moments, especially with that street-fighter enhanced fistfight between Nick Gant and what could possibly be The Division's most powerful Mover/Grunt Victor (Neil Jackson).

Djimon Hounsou plays the meanest badass in the movie with Push powers, able to command the weakest of minds (read: supporting characters) to do his bidding. His Henry Carver came across as a poor man's Samuel L. Jackson, and only SLJ can do what SLJ does best - be a mofo. Camilla Belle got wasted here as a damsel in distress, exhibiting some surprise moves once in a while (and even that had implanted doubts), but generally nothing more than a flower vase.

Dakota Fanning isn't new to the action movie genre since she had her firm grounding learning from Tom Cruise on how to run with fear (thanks to War of the Worlds). I admire the now teenager in trying to put into good use her acting chops here, but the filmmakers decided to make her Cassie Holmes suffer a bad hair day throughout. Also, this film had exposed one of her flaws - while she's a good actress and all, she cannot play intoxicated (teenage drinking to boost powers, hooray). Her drunkenness was one of the most unconvincing I've seen put on screen, and she too nearly wanted to break into laughter at her inability.

Filmed entirely in Hong Kong, I caught glimpse from the end credits that Johnnie To and Milkyway got credited for the production. I guess if you want to film Hong Kong in a certain style, there's only the current Hot Property to turn to for consultation. Also, DOP Peter Sova had some very obvious use of the fish-eye lens that seem to mimic that of Christopher Doyle's in Fallen Angels. Most of the Chinese characters here are pretty weak, and not to mention unintentionally hilarious as well, with their shout-down powers of Pop Boy 1 (Chi Kwan Fung) and 2 (Jacky Heung) and a far superior Watcher (Lu Lu) trying to gain a one up against The Division through triad-styled turf wars.

The plot might seem a little muddled as it tried hard to sound intelligent, and there are some illogical moments with characters popping up and about, coupled with some really tired and uninspiring lines and unclear character motivation. Not that it was not entertaining, it actually is. However, it's a movie purely for escapism purposes, this might just be a quick fix to your X-men addiction, if you look too much into it that you see the glaring loopholes that is.

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