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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
In our old podcasting days, one of the more controversial ‘casts we did was on the seemingly non-controversial 2009 action-flick Push, starring Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning. What we thought was an inoffensive review of a low-budget movie that no one saw in theaters turned into a fairly fervent discussion amongst friends. Even now, almost two years after the podcast and well over two years since the movie’s release, my unapologetic love for this film is questioned, mocked, and derided by my peers.
Let me get something straight right away: Push is not a great movie. The direction and editing are particularly egregious. The direction seems slow and sloppy when it should be fast paced and interested and the editing seems fast paced and choppy when it should be slower and more contemplative. It’s like it was directed by one guy and edited by another guy who are mortal enemies. It liberally uses editing from the Jason Bourne School of filmmaking.
The special effects are pretty atrocious as well. NBC’s Heroes, which was airing at the time though waning in popularity considerably, had a somewhat similar plot and style with special effects that rivaled this Hollywood production. Granted, Push’s budget wasn’t all that much (something like 38 million dollars), but directors have gleaned much more from similar amounts of cash in recent years.
The acting ranges from actually pretty good (Evans, who is always likable) to fairly decent (Fanning, playing another mature, world weary teenager) to bad (Djimon Hounsou, who I actually like a lot) to pretty campy and hilarious (Cliff Curtis, another guy I actually like a lot). The script really doesn’t give the actors much to work with, but Evans’ charm and Fanning’s personality help carry the movie a little bit. Simply put, they at least soften the blow.
So why do I like this movie? I really can’t explain it, other than it’s the kind of film that I would have made as a teenager. It’s a comic book come-to-life in a way that its bigger budgeted brothers like Spiderman and X-Men are not. It’s kind of a real and genuine movie that takes itself a bit too seriously and doesn’t have an ounce of ironic, winking at the camera except for maybe Cliff Curtis, who is clearly having some fun with his role.
Another thing I like about the film is its setting. Hong Kong makes an excellent backdrop and playground for the characters. The setting is reminiscent of the Stephen Chow-directed films of the last decade as well as the best of the Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung collaborations from the mid-80s. The director, Paul Guigan, makes good use of his setting, showing locales from all over Hong Kong. Rumor is he guerilla shot at least some of it, which may explain why the movie feels a bit disjointed. But I can respect his use of setting and scenery; it really helps elevate the movie.
Additionally, the sound, sound effects, and sound editing are all decent. The soundtrack and ambient music fits the film nicely. Any film is elevated by an appropriately decent soundtrack, and Push is no exception. I’ve often contemplated checking the soundtrack out, though I’ve never actually looked to see whether or not it’s available on iTunes or anything. I should get around to that.
We live in a time where every film is judged on the content of its box office, and Push did not do well in theaters. I don’t know whether or not its found a second life on home video, but I really hope that it has. The overall film is not great, but it’s also not exactly bad. It has a few interested moments that I appreciate. Every year there’s a film that I seem to appreciate more than my peers. If they don’t understand why I like it so much, that’s fine. I hope that I have demonstrated at least a little bit why this movie is so intriguing to me.