A special young boy escapes the clutches of a shadowy and strangely powerful organisation only through his father’s ultimate sacrifice – for this specialness runs in families and this is the only way the boy can break free from their oppressive attention. Many years later the man he has become ekes out a living on the street using his own strange power: telekinesis. His grasp of this power is slight and there are others in the world with greater ability and who pose greater threat – a fact that becomes all too clear when he encounters a young psychic girl with a message: they must join forces to find a woman on the run from that same organisation if they are all to survive. What our hero doesn’t yet realise is that he knows this woman already – and the man pursuing her…
Push is a reasonably sound bit of sci-fi entertainment, but it’s certainly nothing special – particularly not coming from the director of Lucky Number Slevin. It looks nice enough, using Hong Kong as a striking backdrop for super-powered thrills without quite going overboard into roof-jumping Matrix territory; but the story is rather two dimensional as are the characters, and the warning bells start to ring very early as hot on the heels of the gung-ho opening Dakota Fanning’s voice is pressed into service to explain a whole lot of backstory, in case we needed leading by the hand through the concept of “a world of mysterious power-havers”. On the one hand it’s unnecessary, all becomes quickly clear in any case; but on the other there is so much backstory to be had you wonder whether they aren’t going at things in the wrong order, or telling the wrong story. Actually, no: on both hands, everyone in the whole wide world knows what this is about from before the film even begins. This concept is nothing new, it just needs something new doing with it: so go for it.
Sadly they don’t. There are only a handful of powers, several that seem like rather obvious parallels of each other (memory writers and memory erasers, for example, are apparently different types, and for every annoying goth chick who can predict your next move there’s an equally annoying social dropout who can block the effect); then there are telekinesisers and sound-attackers for the action scenes, perception alterers to trick you into thinking Monopoly money buys a round – but as you can see none are particularly groundbreaking concepts (no-one seems able to break ground, for a start).
It has its moments though, and when things seem darkest plot-wise the hero comes up with what looks like a novel way out of the situation, setting up the climax to come – and it works on the whole, although the trick is used less inventively than it has potential to be. However, this being a world in which everyone significant is fore-warned that appearances can deceive, his tactic works rather too well, and the film tails off towards what can only be an exceedingly optimistic set up for a sequel and/or franchise – one which is unlikely to arise.
Once again, genre is demonstrated to equal mediocrity. If there is one thing that The Matrix proved it is that, if someone tells us a solidly functioning story set in an exciting and unfamiliar world, the audience and Hollywood both will beat down the door for more*. But if you don’t do those things in the first place…
* and give you plenty of time to fuck things up at your leisure