Dakota Fanning and Djimon Hounsou try to Push their careers forward.
PUSH (D: Paul McGuigan, 111 min). Opens Friday (February 6). See Movies. Rating: NN
Push is a sort of low-rent X-Men knockoff in which a handful of attractive young psychics run around Hong Kong trying to stay one step ahead of a group of older, slightly less attractive psychics.
Everyone's chasing after a mysterious case that supposedly holds the key to their continued security, or $6 million or the thing that will bring down "Division," the super-secret American government agency that's been working to perfect a new breed of mutants - sorry, "people like us" - ever since the Nazi genetics program that first created psychics was discovered in 1945.
(Yes, this is the second film in as many months to attempt to use Josef Mengele's fixation on eugenics as a springboard to a rollicking effects movie. Again: ick.)
Our reluctant hero is Nick (Chris Evans, from the Fantastic Four movies), a telekinetic "mover" and compulsive gambler whose Chinese exile is interrupted by the arrival of sassy precognitive "watcher" Cassie (Dakota Fanning), who enlists him to find escaped "pusher" Kira (Camilla Belle) before she can fall into the hands of evil Divi sion agent Carver (Djimon Hounsou). Much pushing and moving follows.
Screenwriter David Bourla and direc tor Paul McGuigan spend the first hour introducing us to their assembled heroes and villains in modest sequences that let them show off their abili ties. There's a nice, casual rhythm to the faceoffs - they're more matter-of-fact than show-offy, either because the production used up all of its budget shooting in Hong Kong or because there aren't too many ways to depict pushing, moving, bleeding, sha dowing and/or sniffing without looking silly.
But just when things seem ready to blast off into all-out psychic war, the final act turns into a Psychic Friends reworking of McGuigan's last movie, the empty con Lucky Number Slevin, with Evans and Fanning trying to outmanoeuvre a rival watcher (Lu Lu) with a ploy so convoluted, it defies both normal and metahuman logic. And the ending is awfully hard to swallow, given the rules of the established universe.
This would have made a great 1970s B movie starring, say, a young Kurt Russell and that weird girl from Escape From Witch Mountain, when effects were less refined and audiences were more tolerant of wobbly plotting.
But in the here and now, Push just doesn't have the strength to compete with its betters.