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'Push' is a muddled paranormal thriller

Telepaths battle evil mind-benders out for world domination, but you won't really care.

February 06, 2009|Glenn Whipp

The painfully inscrutable paranormal thriller "Push" introduces us to a host of characters with various gifts -- some can see the future, some can heal, some can plant ideas, some can make change for a dollar. By the time the credits roll, your most fervent wish is to run into a "wiper" (one who can erase memories).

In an opening-credits prologue, we learn that the U.S. government is continuing to perform psychic experiments started by the Nazis in order to create some kind of super-freaky-powerful army -- or something. Like a lot of things in David Bourla's script, it's left unclear, as are the rules of engagement after the philanthropic-minded telepaths begin to battle the evil mind-benders out for world domination.

What we do know is that telekinetic Nick Gant (Chris Evans) and clairvoyant Cassie (Dakota Fanning) must recover a powerful, experimental drug in the jam-packed streets of Hong Kong before Agent Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou) gets his hands on it.

Director Paul McGuigan ("Lucky Number Slevin") has never been keen on plot logic, and that might be fine here if he offered anything other than cinematographer Peter Sova's lush images of Hong Kong. Concepts are introduced and immediately abandon- ed.

When Nick devises the inspired idea for his band of harried pranksters to behave illogically to throw the "watchers" off their scent, it'd be nice for a little wackiness to ensue instead of simply another inert action sequence. (Hats off, though, for the scene in which Gant threatens Carver with levitating revolvers.)

Fanning wanders around in a miniskirt and rainbow-colored hair, hurling the occasional profanity and looking decidedly lost. When Cassie downs a fifth of whiskey to see the future more clearly (and haven't we all done that?), Fanning turns into a mean cutie-pie drunk, demonstrating such a complete lack of firsthand knowledge that you can only salute her parents for a job well done.

Now they just need to take better care of her career.




MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action, intense sequences of violence, smoking and teen drinking

Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes

Playing: In general release

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