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Friday, July 17, 2009

Film Review: PUSH


So it might be a bit late for a review because Push came out in theaters a few months ago but it just came out on the iTunes store & rentals; so I think a late review is fair game in this case.
As a super-powered hero movie Push is not the best. But as a thriller it rocks… big time! Remember Minority Report? That movie kept you hooked because there was know way to know what was going on at any point. Yet at the end everything came together through a very neat and clever twist. Push plays very similarly to that other SciFi thriller… but with a big difference: this time the characters are actually interesting.


Take for example Cassie (Dakota Fanning): Cassie is a watcher; she can see the future and knows how (but not when) she is going to die. She knows Nick (Chris Evans) and her mother are going to be with her when she does. For a twelve-year-old girl this must be a nightmare. Death Cassie is so present for Cassie that she does not behave her age; she drinks (heavily), handles guns (with little fear) and shows little remorse when killing others to prolong her very short life. Cassie’s companion Nick is a mover (a fancy name for telekinetic) who is dating Kira (Camille Hudson), a pusher. Because pushers can make you believe and do anything they want Nick never really knows what part of the relationship is real and what is Kira’s own fantasy. There is also a guy who can turn paper into bills (he hangs out at strip joints all day exchanging “money” for lap dances) and the inevitable pair of evil twins and an Asian femme fatale.
But the roster of characters is not the only colorful element of this movie. Push has an energetic cinematography. It takes full advantage of the Honk Kong setting, from its high-class skyscrapers to the dingy, dusty (but colorful) markets. Never had a city been portrayed so vibrantly and shiny since Las Vegas in Casino. In some cases the film looks more like a documentary on Americans living in Honk Kong than an actual thriller. It would probably be worth it to watch it again and use the pause button to observe the Hong Kong scenery in detail.
After Wicker Park and Lucky Number Slevin Paul McGuigan had proven he could master thrillers. He also has a very well defined style. Like in those films, McGuigan gives Push an easy going, whimsy feel that exists within a much more dangerous and violent world. Another masterstroke are the camera movements, which surprisingly never cause nausea even though they are never still. I am not a fan of the moving camera (cough… Bourne Trilogy…cough) but here the camera pulls you in: close and personal into the characters eyes and far far away into the epic action happening around them.
The Hong Kong setting might seem a bit arbitrary but I really enjoyed it. It is nice to see a thriller (whether SciFi or military) that is not a load of Ameri-wank. In Push, international politics are taken seriously and the Hong Kong government and criminal underground don’t really like it when American agents intervene in their affairs. And the main characters know how to take advantage of this. Honestly, how often do you see characters smart enough to do that? Sure… three out of the six “good guys” are American and the main villain (Djimon Hounsou) is American but almost everybody else is Chinese.
The ending is somewhat ambiguous, and not everything is solved. But this adds some reality to otherwise outlandish situation. Lets face it if you are a super-powered being hunted down by the US government, the Chinese government, the Hong Kong mafia, and an evil organization called “Division”, it is not saving the day what you would really be interested in but getting though the day. For the characters in Push saving the world is not as important as saving your own ass. Yes, they are selfish but that is what makes them human. And many superhero films forget this. There is also no origins story; things just happen to be and you have to accept them.
I like bold films like Push, besides its horribly boring title.
It will probably take more than a single watch to fully understand the plot in Push. But I really don’t care I am more than ready to watch it once again. I am sure it holds its replay value. Because even if you think this film is not necessarily good (I think it is) it is definitely fun.

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