Empty video-game-style action seems the only rationale behind this silly, chaotic picture that seems an unholy mixture of “Heroes” and “Jumper.” Does that make it “Humper”? Or “Jeroes”? (That’s actually unfair. There are bits and pieces from other sources, like “X-Men” and “Dark Angel,” too. But it’s close.)
The premise of David Bourla’s uninspired script is that the government has been engaged in cruel experiments to harness the paranormal abilities of people for military use. One of the subjects, Nick Gant (Chris Evans), a “mover” with telekinetic powers, was part of the secret program, but escaped as a kid when he saw his father killed by the evil Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou), a “pusher” (mind-controller) who’s a head honcho of the so-called Directorate. Now Nick’s in hiding in Hong Kong.
Cue the arrival of a young dissident “watcher” (a prophetess who foresees the future in much the same way that the inspired painter did in the first season of “Heroes”) named Cassie (Dakota Fanning), who tells Nick he has to come out of seclusion to help Kira (Camilla Belle), another “pusher” who absconded with an experimental steroid that promises to increase the powers of the gifted super-soldiers, and is being hunted down by Carver and his underlings. “Save the pusher and save the world (and my mother)” is Cassie’s message in a nutshell, which seems an appropriate turn of phrase since the movie offers nothing inside the thinnest of surfaces.
Nick’s ultimate plan to outwit Carver and save Kira (with whom, it turns out, he once had a hot romance that he now resumes) has a certain loony promise: he and his helpers will act so apparently arbitrarily that no watcher could predict what they’ll do and use that knowledge to track them down. “What if nothing we did made any sense?” says the inept hero, apparently reciting the credo of the moviemakers. Unfortunately, that doesn’t lead to the sort of slapstick sequences one might expect, but to lots of fighting, shooting and chases, in the course of which poor Evans spends most of his time getting beaten up in extravagant ways by a variety of super-powered enemies, including a bunch of Chinese folk called Bleeders whose screams have horribly destructive power. (It’s a good thing audience members don’t have that option.) There are also fellows whose super-acute sense of smell allows them to track their quarry. (It’s a really a good thing viewers don’t possess that talent, given the stench emanating from the screen.)
“Push” is wildly convoluted, but nothing that happens in it makes a lick of sense, and it’s so atrociously executed that watching it is like a form of torture. The dreadful writing is matched by Paul McGuigan’s wacked-out direction and the terrible acting. The amiable Evans tries to add a touch of humor to the proceedings, but all those beatings he has to take are as exhausting for us as they must have been for him. Meanwhile Fanning, with pink-streaked hair, an outfit that looks like it was assembled from an understocked thrift store, a perpetual frown and a potty mouth, works hard to put a nail in her career coffin but still emerges with some hope for the future. Hounsou, apparently enlisted because the part was below the standards even of Samuel L. Jackson, appears to be reciting his lines phonetically, and Belle goes through the entire picture looking as dazed as you’ll be if you try to figure out what’s going on.
As if all that weren’t bad enough, the picture is unremittingly ugly from a purely visual perspective. Peter Sova’s spastic cinematography is so jerky and jumpy that the result looks as though it were shot by an epileptic during a seizure, and the nauseating effect is exacerbated by Nicolas Trembasiewicz’s hyper editing, which makes it seem that the movie was cut by (or for) someone with ADD. There are periodic “you are there” establishing inserts of Hong Kong—so many that if they were excised, the overlong running-time of 111 minutes could probably be reduced to a slightly more tolerable ninety. The effects are sub-par, too, all slapdash and messy.
“Push” is the sort of brainless rubbish one might be tempted to call of direct-to-DVD caliber if that didn’t insult DVDs.