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Reel Review: ‘Push’ hangs on murky plot, outlandish stunts

The best part about “Push,’ the latest sci-fi movie granting attractive people superhuman powers, is the chance to see child prodigy Dakota Fanning before Hollywood whisks her out of her innocent girlhood and turns her into the next teen starlet.

Fanning stars as Cassie, a runaway “watcher,” or clairvoyant, whose glimpses of the future come in fleeting images she sketches on a tablet. There are others with powers too - some can move things with their mind, like her big brother-ish companion Nick (Chris Evans), and Kira (Camilla Belle), the most skilled of the ragtag group of characters, who can “push” thoughts into people’s heads. Others can shapeshift objects, scream ‘til your ears bleed and heal.

These powers would be useful to a secret U.S. government agency and a vicious Hong Kong street gang. Our heroes spend most of the film running from both groups, each trying to get their hands on a rogue suitcase containing a mysterious drug that can take these powers to a truly lethal level.

Beyond that, the plot is murky. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, as the locations shot around the streets of Hong Kong are memorable and capture a fascinating side of the city. Yet it’s never quite clear if the “normal” people that surround them even notice the strange occurrences their powers cause (fish tanks suddenly exploding, guns flying through the air and magically being held against someone’s head - it seems someone might take notice). But when the action heats up, so does the handheld camera, which made me a little queasy (perhaps the younger, video game generation can handle it better than this 30-something).

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The best part about this genre of movies is watching the characters learn about and experiment with their powers (“X-Men” and “Spiderman” are two good examples). This is how we get to know - and hopefully like - the characters, who are blessed (or burdened) with these superhuman skills, and also how we get the chance to fantasize about what we would do with such power. “Push” never quite gets there, instead relying on outlandish stunts to try to make us care.

Djimon Hounsou as the lead government agent is a bold presence in the film, while Camilla Belle as the object of his hunt is rather useless as a blank, albeit pretty face that brings little to the film for such a central character. Chris Evans is adequate, but Fanning shines the brightest, clearly poised to be a megastar. It’s just unfortunate that this is the best role they could find for her at this slightly awkward “tween” phase.

‘Push’

Rated PG-13

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Grade: C-

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