I hadn’t heard much about this movie, so I had no preconceptions when I decided to watch it – and that was just as well, because the critics and many SF fans hammered it when it hit the cinemas. While I rarely take any notice of critics – because I rarely agree with them –a negative backlash from other SF fans might have made me think twice.
I’m not sure why so many fans trashed it – I have seen far more derivative movies that were well received, and while I had a few déjà vu moments here, overall, the end result was fresh and entertaining.
The look of the movie is superb, from the grungy opening credits to the overall gritty feel. It grounds the movie in a palpable reality that pushes the story along. Cinematographer Peter Sove (Donnie Brasco) has a brilliant eye for textures and uses them lavishly here. The movie is set in Hong Kong, which offers weatherworn exteriors, lush interiors and everything in between. The movie is soaked in texture and a feast for the eye. It isn’t an Asian movie, as such, but it could be.
The direction by Paul McGuigan is pretty darn good too. He and Sova have worked on other projects together, and have a way of focussing on fascinating, everyday faces, as well as those of the stars. It gives this movie a great feel of being there – as if you were walking through these streets with the characters.
Chris Evans plays Nick, a boy born with psychic abilities, eagerly sought by the Division (as this particular all pervasive government menace is called). Nick is a pusher, meaning he has kinetic powers. His nemesis Carter, who killed his father, is played by the riveting Djimon Hounsou. I could watch anything with this man in it – his presence on the screen is always compelling.
Dakota Fanning plays 13 year old ‘Watcher’ Cassie. Watchers see the future, and while Fanning did a great job, and her character had genuine rapport with Nick, she seemed to strike the only wrong note. I think she just looked too much like Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, and that was too distracting. But Camilla Bell as Kyra struck exactly the right note with her extraordinary eyes.
There are many fine performances – Xiaolu Li as the ‘Pop girl’ is slinky and menacing, and her two brothers – the Pop boys – are a real scream as the ‘Bleeders’ who can shatter anything – including ear drums – with their voices. The casting is superb – no one looks like anyone else in this movie, which includes distinctive performances by New Zealander Chris Curtis, Nick Rooney and Maggie Siff. Each character is strikingly unique, adding to the overall rich texture of the movie.
Yes, there are echoes of X-Men, Jumper, and Heroes, among others, but only because many SF movies do share similar themes. Push is actually better than most of them, and it deserves to be given more applause than it received.