‘Push’ mediocre venture into genre territory

David Hohwald

What happens when an exciting new genre of films gets rehashed to the point of being cliché? Why not ask Paul McGuigan, director of the new Hollywood blockbuster “Push”?

Set in a near-future Hong Kong where people with psychic powers duke it out as either government agents or civilians, “Push” manages to make a big-budget action movie boring.

Sure, the acting is so-so and the writing is weak, but “Push” commits the cardinal sin of action films: making an ending that basically requires a sequel before one has even been confirmed.

That said, “Push” manages to come through with some nifty special effects and action set pieces. The telekinesis powers shown in the film are pretty fun and make up the majority of the interesting parts of the action sequences.

Even small details like the chase sequences are well-paced and staged, which is increasingly rare in newer hyper-kinetic action films.

Less satisfying, though, are some of the other special effects, specifically the “bleeder” power of screaming so loudly that glass shatters.

It sounds cool, but ends up coming across as cheesy and not at all interesting to watch.

When “Push” gets in a groove, its special effects are quite fun to watch, but they are just too uneven to ever build a rhythm.

Still, the effects definitely outshine some of the more bland parts of “Push,” especially the acting.

Leading man Chris Evans has all the personality of a cardboard cutout, and his love interest Camilla Belle actually has less. The romantic subplot does not take up too much of the film, but it is never believable that these two were ever in love.

Evans relies on his stony demeanor whenever he is faced with a challenging scene, and the results are unspectacular to say the least.

Somewhat better, though, are the supporting actors, specifically Dakota Fanning and Nate Mooney.

Fanning actually brings some emotion and fear to the table, which in itself is unimpressive until one realizes she is the only one who seemingly managed to do this.

Mooney is not on-screen too much, but when he is he manages to be pithy and commands enough presence to stand out among bigger names. Less impressive is the very talented Djimon Hounsou, who appears to just be cashing a check.

That is not to say that the script does the actors of “Push” any favors. Most dialogue falls flat and sounds like a series of hurried ultimatums, probably because that’s what the majority of it is.

Jokes are rare, and the movie has no sense of humor about itself, which is a shame, because it could definitely do for a bit more comedy.

Worse, though, is the way that the powers in the movie are introduced with no real explanation. The movie assumes the audience will take the premise and go with it.

Ultimately, though, an action movie can overcome flaws like these with a satisfying ending. It appears “Push” even attempted to pull this off with a twist ending but to no avail. The ending feels rushed, only mildly believable ]and it does not tie up all the loose ends. Paul McGuigan appears to be gunning for a sequel, and unfortunately this aspiration gets taken out on the audience in the form of a pseudo-conclusion.

“Push” definitely has some of the elements of action to work with. Sci-fi powers? Definitely. Big-budget action? Most definitely.

Unfortunately, the wheels fall off after that. Mediocre acting, a script that seems like it was written in a week and an unsatisfying plot all collude to make “Push” a hackneyed attempt at the already saturated sci-fi action genre.

One would have to be a huge fan of this genre and be willing to overlook some serious flaws in order to have a good time seeing “Push.” Wait for it on DVD.