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Push (Paul McGuigan, 2009)


     Absolutely derivative, but nonetheless of interest, Paul McGuiganís Push provides enough of a variation on the oversaturated superhero genre to feel fresh on a moment-to-moment basis. Its script admittedly rips off the basic formula of the X-Men movies and comics, but it tells its story with more success than any of those three Marvel Comics-sanctioned features. There are obvious reasons why this works better than most comic book movies, even it finds its roots in an original screenplay. The sheer lack of baggage that the movie has to haul helps considerably. In not having to cater to a horde of eager fanboys, Push is freed to move at its own pace and find its own headspace.


     To begin with, Push makes excellent usage of its busy Hong Kong setting. A sci-fi spectacle in which the pyrotechnics take a backseat to such things as the reflections of neon lights in a carís window and the gaudy glitz of a high-rise casino, the movie has its own distinctive, lived-in style. Peter Sovaís cinematography, impressive as it is, is not the sole technical asset. The film editing, through the plotís introduction of psychic powers, treats time and space as wholly malleable concepts, but never overwhelms or confuses. The sound design, too, is considerably toned down compared to most movies of this kind, often achieving only an ambient drone. In some scenes, Push almost becomes a mood piece, with characters finding moments of calm amid the chaos. All of these elements conspire to give the film a distinctly different feel from your average action blockbuster.


     Even the plot here, which involves genetic experiments and secret government agencies, is less overblown than is typical in the genre. There are no absurd spandex costumes, and more importantly, no moments that beg the audience to cheer the heroesí actions. In fact, the overriding impression here becomes one of helplessness. The characters in this movie are not superheroes. They feel the weight of fate and worry about their mortality. They buckle under tension and seem uncertain at all times how to proceed. Such constant distress makes for a unique, yet compelling, viewing experience. In tone, the film feels more like Gilliamís 12 Monkeys than anything to have sprung from a comic book shop. As tempting as it is to rave more, overselling Push would do it no favors. As much as it feels fresh it certainly bows to its genre often enough to seem less that wholly new, but sometimes, as they do here, the slightest deviations from the mold come as a shock.




Jeremy Heilman