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February 7, 2009 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | February 7, 2009 |

A man in the row in front of me fell asleep during my screening of Push. His head lolled back and his mouth gaped in a kind of lugubrious moan, emitting heavy sighs that would give way to apneic sputtering. First I was annoyed; what kind of numbnuts pays ten dollars to come sleep in a crowded theater with blasting speakers and flickering lights, fucking over the ambient experience for the rest of us? But really, it occurred to me that this was less his fault than the movie’s. Push is boring. Like, Benadryl-with-beer boring. Push is a movie about psychics and telepaths who fight each other with breakdancing, invisible hadoukens, and sonic screams and it is fucking boring. Suddenly that snoring imbecile offered a better film review than my words ever could.

Push is about a group of people with fancy mind-powers: some are telekinetic, some clairvoyant, some have the power of suggestion, and some can sniff toothbrushes to see what you’ve been doing for the last few months (seriously…that’s their power). Basically, these people are like handicapped Jedi who can only use one part of the Force, and they’re given names with upsetting and stupid bodily connotations (Movers, Bleeders, Watchers, Pushers, Wipers, the aforementioned Sniffers…were they kidding?). Apparently there’s a government agency called “The Division”, lead by Mr. Beninois-accent Person (Djimon Hounsou) which keeps tabs on all these would-be superheroes, sometimes taking them hostage and doing evil experiments on them.

Some plot machinations far beyond my comprehension leave us with Nick (Chris Evans) a callow vagabond and telekinetic hiding from the Division in Hong Kong, spending his days gambling and generally running around acting like a douchebiscuit. The Division catches up with him one day - they’re looking for his dead-eyed, sweaty, greasy ex-girlfriend (Camilla Belle) because she stole this psychic steroid or something. And then a psychic Dakota Fanning shows up wanting Nick to help her find a suitcase full of money or something. Fanning will always be around seven-years-old in my cinematic imagination, and seeing her trotting out an incipient sexuality here made me want to turn away and scream.

What happened next? I don’t know. Oh my god, I don’t know. I seriously remember almost nothing about the plot, and can’t be bothered to look it up. The plot was a fucking morass. Our putative heroes spend 100 minutes walking down streets and talking to each other in hotel rooms, endlessly parsing out subplots and half-cocked motivations for a narrative that never actually becomes. We don’t know these characters, either who they are or what they want, but we’re asked to meander through the better part of two hours of lukewarm scheming. And that’s a pretty tall fucking order when the principal players absolutely, unrepentantly cannot act: Evans is terrible, Belle is terrible, but Dakota Fanning is incompetent here in every way available to an actor. She constantly overacts, barfing out lines of misfiring comic relief with the self-important mania of a pre-teen, and she dresses like a Ukrainian hooker. Her dialog in this film could devastate entire cities.

How exactly does a self-billed science fiction actioner/thriller end up resembling a CW television pilot that overstays its welcome after about five seconds? I don’t know, but what isn’t laughable in Push is genuinely soporific, sapping so much energy during the viewing that it seems impossible to hate until you realize that was two hours better spent doing your damn taxes. Or sleeping, as my friend from the theater proved so well.

Phillip Stephens is the lead critic and book editor for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas and wastes his twenties in grad school(s).

Push / Phillip Stephens

Film | February 7, 2009 |

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