Friday, 31 October 2014

Push (2009)

It belatedly occurs to me that this was probably not the most apropos choice for my Halloween review.  Oh well.

This movie has a couple of things going for it.  Alas, the script is not one of them.

Push is a bubble-and-squeak movie, with story and cast of characters that feel like they've been pilfered from other bits of media.  Now sometimes, this "throw some leftovers in a pot and fry 'em up" approach will work (with food as well as movies).  And sometimes you get lumpy slop that leaves you with a vague feeling of indigestion (with movies as well as food).

The basic premise is simple enough: there are psychics among us.  These include Watchers, who get glimpses of the (possible) future; Movers, who are telekinetic; and Pushers, who can plant memories and take control of your actions.  There are other kinds as well: some of which frankly don't seem much like psychic phenomena.  "Screaming really loudly" for instance, looks a lot more like a plain old mutant superpower.

As if so often the case in these kind of things, there are secret government organisations trying to control those with powers, as well as keep them from public knowledge (though frankly the mutants - I mean "psychics" - are about as subtle as the immortals in Highlander, so only wilful stupidity on the part of humanity can explain how they're not front page news).

Anyway, the US government's secret agency, 'Division', has discovered a drug that boosts the powers of those into whom it is injected.  Unfortunately, it also tends to kill them.  So they're understandably a little annoyed when the first person to survive the injection manages to escape.  She makes her way to Hong Kong, where a former boyfriend and a rag-tag group of other psychics try to help her stay one step ahead of the many people hunting her.  Will they succeed?  Frankly, you probably won't much care.

The two positives I mentioned several paragraphs ago are the cast and the location shooting.  The film has a fantastic ensemble, though it does very little with them.  The script either fails to earn its characters' arcs (such as with Dakota Fanning's character) or doesn't bother to give them one (such as with Ming Wa's).

Meanwhile, the choice to shoot entirely on location gives the film's depiction of Hong Kong a depth and richness that is often absent from movies using substitute locations.  Also, a film set in Asia with mostly Asian people on screen most of the time: what a concept!

Alas, the strong cast and strong "sense of place" can't overcome the fact that the story is a tedious mish-mash of recycled ideas.

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