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'Push' stars Dakota Fanning in a sci-fi muddle
The painfully inscrutable paranormal thriller "Push" introduces us to a host of characters with various gifts—some can see the future, some can heal, some can plant ideas, some can make change for a dollar. By the times the credits roll, your most fervent wish is to run into a "wiper" (one who can erase memories) after stumbling into the lobby. That or a telepath who could convince you that you just watched "Slumdog Millionaire" instead.
We are told in a windy, opening-credits prologue that psychic experiments started by those darned Nazis are now being continued by the U.S. government (add another item to Obama's to-do list) in order to create some kind of super-freaky-powerful army or else transform toxic waste into a mountain of jelly beans. Like a lot of things in David Bourla's script, it's left unclear, as are the rules of engagement once the philanthropic-minded telepaths battle the evil mind-benders bent on world domination.
What we do know with reasonable certainty is that telekinetic Nick Gant (Chris Evans) and clairvoyant Cassie ( Dakota Fanning) must recover a powerful, experimental drug in the jam-packed streets of Hong Kong before Division Agent Henry Carver ( Djimon Hounsou) gets his hands on it. Thought-pusher Kira (Camilla Belle) took the serum and actually lived, which means she either has a strong constitution or…what?
Maybe the answer lies in the Bermuda Triangle, containing the footage that seems to have been abruptly cut from the movie. The film's 111-minute running time is 10 minutes shorter than the length listed in the press notes. To which the only reasonable response is to say: Thanks!
Director Paul McGuigan ("Lucky Number Slevin") has never been keen on plot logic, and that might be fine here if he offered anything other than Peter Sova's lush images of Hong Kong. Concepts are introduced and immediately abandoned. When Nick devises the inspired idea for his band of harried pranksters to behave illogically to throw the "watchers" off their scent, it'd be nice for a little wackiness to ensue instead of simply another inert action sequence. (Hats off, though, for the scene in which Evans threatens Hounsou with levitating revolvers. Sometimes the best effects are also the cheesiest.)
Fanning, apparently bummed at missing the audition for "Bratz: The Movie," wanders around in a miniskirt and rainbow-colored hair, hurling the occasional profanity and looking decidedly lost. When Cassie downs a fifth of whiskey to see the future more clearly (and haven't we all done that?), Fanning turns into a mean cutie-pie drunk, demonstrating such a complete lack of first-hand knowledge that you can only salute her parents for a job well done. Now they just need to take better care of her career.
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Special to the Los Angeles Times
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action, intense sequences of violence, smoking and teen drinking).
Running time: 1:51.
Opening: Feb. 6.
Starring: Chris Evans (Nick); Dakota Fanning (Cassie); Camilla Belle (Kira); Djimon Hounsou (Henry Carver).
Directed by: Paul McGuigan; screenplay by David Bourla; edited by Nicolas Trembasiewicz; photographed by Peter Sova; production design by Francois Seguin; music by Neil Davidge; produced by Glenn Williamson, Bruce Davey, William Vince. A Summit Entertainment release.