When Push Comes to Shove


What do you get when you put “Scanners,” “X-Men” and a touch of “Blade Runner” into the blender? You get “Push,” a 2009 sci-fi actioner which was practically born for the B-List Bargain Bin, with some genetic experimentation here and there.

The film kicks off with a young boy named Jack witnesses the death of his father (Joel Gretsch of “V”) by shadowy government agents lead by Carver (Djimon Hounsou). Cue the credits, which clue us into a word of psychics – ranging from telekinetic Movers to thought-controlling Pushers – who have become target of the Division, an ominous government agency trying to develop an army of psychic super-soldiers, with fatal results. When the Kira (Camilla Belle) becomes the first-ever survivor of a Division experiment, she develops a tremendously powerful Push and promptly escapes.

As you might have guessed, the grown-up Jack (future Captain America Chris Evans) is the protagonist, a low-level Mover whose fledgling telekinetic powers can’t even keep him from taking on tremendous gambling debts on the streets of Hong Kong. After encountering Division agents hot on Kira’s trail, Jack prepares to leave, only to encounter a precocious precog named Cassie (Dakota Fanning), who claims to have a way to steal money from Division. After a violent run-in with Triad psychics, Jack reluctantly agrees to help Cassie, who reveals they are after the key to taking down Division. The mystery item lies in a briefcase in Kira’s possession, but surprise surprise, Kira and Jack are ex-lovers, further complicating the situation as Carver and his forces close in on the two psychics and their allies.

The best part of “Push” is the highly-developed mythology surrounding each psychic’ capabilities. For example, Jack’s telekinetic Push is tempered by his emotional resolve, providing a potential weak-point for Carver to exploit. Cassie can see the future, which is constantly changing, leading her and a Triad rival (Ming-Na) in an intriguing race for the briefcase. Kira can push thoughts right into the mind, making herself appear as an old friend to virtual strangers, and even convincing a Division agent his partner killed his brother, who was also a fabrication concocted by Kira. Like Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” movies, “Push” works because the psychics are able to use their abilities in compelling and often ingenious ways while still maintaining a level of realism. Better yet, each psychic seems to occupy a certain place within the seedy underbelly of Hong Kong, further adding to the movie’s mythology.

While the psychic powers lead to some great action sequences and plot twists, the characters aren’t always as solid or as exciting. Evans and Fanning have an understated chemistry which keeps the pair interesting, while Hounsou makes Carver an intimidating yet intriguing screen presence. Thus, it’s Kira who is ultimately the weakest link. From her powers to her ever-changing back story, Kira is designed to be a walking plot twist. Unfortunately, the only thing the filmmakers didn’t think to give her was a personality. As a result, the film suffers as a whole whenever the character is involved, especially when her actions are explained by red herrings which doesn’t hold up. The narrative ultimately seems to forget about her, leading to an ending for both the character and the film which seems tacked-on at best.

“Push” seems primed for a sequel, which is unfortunate, given that there isn’t one. Despite this, the movie is an intriguing distraction for those looking for something slightly different in the action movie fare. There still might be more to the movie’s mythos, as the property is supposedly being developed as a TV show by the voice of Solid Snake himself, David Hayter. No word yet if this is still in development, but the movie certainly provides plenty of backdrop for a TV show, especially in the wake of hits like “Heroes” and “The 4400.” Only time will tell if this movie will “push” the limits into something more.

Own “Push” on DVD for $11.32 shipped from Buy.com.

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