Movie News & Reviews

Comic book thriller pushes too hard to tell a complex story

Dakota Fanning plays her first-ever drunk scene in Push, a new comic book-inspired thriller about mind readers and mind benders, people with telekinetic powers given to them by the government in some demented effort to create human weapons.

It's an ambitious attempt to shove the whole of a fairly complex comic book universe into a single messy and garish movie. It's out there, even if it is only a confusing mash-up of every movie or TV show you've ever seen about telekinesis — well, except for Firestarter.

Fanning plays Cassie, a 13-year-old "watcher," somebody who can see the future and sketch it on her note pad. Her mom once told her that she'd see "clearer" if she had a few drinks. So Cassie does, and Fanning takes another giant stagger toward leaving her child-actress screen persona behind.

Cassie shows up at the Hong Kong door of a "mover" played by Chris Evans. He's been expecting her. His dad, a watcher, told him to look for her 10 years ago.

And here she is, perky, punky and ready to bring down "The Division," the agency that created all these "special people" such as "sniffs" (who can smell every place you've used an object, and thus track you), "bleeders" (who scream until you bleed), "shifters," "wipes" and so on.

Then, there are the "pushers," who can shove a thought into your head, convince you to kill yourself or alter your memory. One of them, Kira (Camilla Belle), has escaped. And she's bringing a magic syringe to Hong Kong, where people will die in an effort to shape the future that many of them have seen already.

The race is on to get to Kira and the syringe full of telekinesis juice that will turn those who take it (and survive) into super weapons. "Special" Chinese agents, including the lollipop-sucking watcher "pop" girl, are on the trail. But so is The Division, led by an evil-eyed Djimon Hounsou.

Fanning is properly plucky, Evans makes a passable if uncompelling action hero, Hounsou isn't really menacing enough to pull off the villain part, and Belle is all bangs and blandness. Director Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin) — though practiced at juggling lots of decent actors in a huge number of roles — wastes a lot of talented people. Maggie Siff (Mad Men), Ming Na (E.R., The Joy Luck Club), Cliff Curtis (Sunshine) and others play "special" people with other talents and gamble on roles that might have some sort of staying power in the unlikely event this becomes a franchise.

Unlikely? Anybody not familiar with the comics might be a little confused by all the differing flavors of telekinetic folk. The odd snappy line doesn't make up for a generally heartless script.

But the telekinetic gunfights are amusing (guns floating in the air) for those who go for that sort of thing.

My prognostication? Push will be pushed out of theaters and out of minds by Fanning's 15th birthday, on Feb. 23. They grow up so fast!