What happens when persecuted psychics battle an evil government organization, evade a dastardly crime syndicate and wrestle with a brutally tortured screenplay? You don't have to be psychic to figure it out.
I like my brain, but I know its limitations. I don't require it to do complicated trigonometry. I don't ask it to ponder 12th century German poetry. When someone says, "Have a nice day," I'm grateful when my brain kicks in with a chirpy, "Thanks! You too!" As opposed to my more standard early morning response, "Mmrrxyph blysschflk."
But there are people who, we are told, have brains with a bit more capacity. Take, for instance, the characters in Push. While most folks have to be content with standard-issue gray matter, these folks sport the turbo model: brains that have the ability to push things around or divine the future or even put foreign thoughts into other people's heads. Accordingly, they've given themselves a variety of descriptive (if obvious) nicknames: "Movers" move things around. "Pushers" push thoughts into other people's minds. "Watchers" see the future. Etcetera.
These extra-extraordinary folks are constantly persecuted by shadowy government agencies—called Divisions—which would very much like to turn the psychics into walking military weapons. Alas, the serum that the Divisions use to weaponize these psychics invariably kills them. Worse, at least from a public relations perspective, the Divisions boast their own psychics who, apparently, have no qualms about blasting their brethren.
The American Division gets a nasty surprise when one of its subjects—a pretty pusher named Kira—actually survives the weaponizing injection, steals the last remaining syringe of the stuff, escapes the Division's ultra-secure compound and flees the country. (Yay!) She's immediately pursued. (Bummer.) So as soon as she gets to Hong Kong, she hides the syringe and asks another friendly psychic—one who specializes in erasing memories—to wipe her mind clean so that no one will be able to track down the syringe. (Yay!) Not even her. (Bummer.)
It's not long, though, before she realizes she must find the serum ... again. So she sets out to re-steal the stolen serum with the help of Nick (a craggy-jawed mover with whom Kira apparently had a past relationship), Cassie (a 13-year-old watcher with pink hair and blue language) and a host of other ancillary, plot-furthering characters. Together, they must evade evil Division employees as well as a nefarious Hong Kong underworld psychic gang.
I've spent a lot of time talking about Kira, but it's Nick who is really the main player in Push. He cares about Kira and Cassie, and he does what he can to keep them safe. Cassie wants to snag the syringe in order to somehow save her mother, long imprisoned by the Division. All are willing to sacrifice themselves, more or less, to bring down the baddies. (But let's face it: Push is not the sort of film that delves too deeply into character motivations.)
After Nick gets roughed up, he's taken to some sort of Asian temple, complete with incense and bowing, chanting worshipers.
Kira freshens up in a hotel bathroom, dressing down to a rather flimsy shift. She psychically summons Nick, and the two kiss. He squeezes her rear, and then the camera leaves the room, suggesting that the encounter progresses from there. We later see the two of them in bed together, sleeping (but fully clothed).
Cassie wears a fairly short skirt throughout the film. She also draws a picture of an apparently naked woman lounging in a martini glass—the logo, it turns out, of an upscale but rather sleazy Hong Kong nightclub. Another character, who's worried his wife is having an affair, asks for confirmation from a local psychic. The psychic sees the woman on another man's yacht. When the man asks whether his wife is happy and whether she's ever coming back, the psychic answers, "It's a very big boat."
One might hope that the bearers of psychic powers would use them to make the world a better place. In Push, though, they're largely used to kill people.
Pushers—the folks who influence the thoughts of others—are particularly guilty. When Kira is captured, she convinces one of her captors that his partner killed his brother. (We see the false flashback play from the doomed brother's point of view.) The first captor becomes enraged and shoots his partner dead.
Most of the time, though, pushers just command their victims to kill themselves: At least two characters are directed to put guns in their own mouths and pull the triggers, and a few are "told" to jump off a ledge. Henchmen shoot their buddies. (One of them is unarmed.) When Cassie is threatened by a pusher, she begs, tears streaming, "Please don't make me do anything to myself."
Movers aren't much better. Nick threatens and shoots at people with a pair of hovering guns. And when he punches people, we're to understand that his punches are imbued with some sort of super-strong psychic mojo (indicated by rainbow-colored flashes when a blow lands). He and other movers skewer characters with bamboo poles—one through the neck. He also has several battles with a bad mover, which sends both careening into walls and ceilings and such.
And then there are the "stitchers," who can apparently cure or cause wounds with a touch. Nick is the recipient of both "treatments," and both look really, really painful.
The Hong Kong gang appears to be led by a family of psychics whose special ability is yelling loud enough to shatter glass and kill anyone in earshot. In one crowded marketplace, scores of fish tanks are shattered by these villains' deafening yawp—but not before the little fishies inside vaporize with a bloody poof. Several characters bleed from their ears due to these verbal assaults. (One wonders how their parents managed these shouters during their terrible twos.)
Several fights feature blows to the face, kicks to the head and an obligatory punch to the crotch. Dozens die in gun battles. A couple of characters apparently perish, only to spring back to life. Another has her memory forcibly taken from her, leaving her unconscious. Cassie draws violent, prophetic pictures, including pictures of herself and her friends—apparently dead. A man mentions that his wife was killed by the Division. In a flashback, Nick watches his father and another woman die at the hands of a Division agent.
Elsewhere, somebody gets crushed by scaffolding. A man is thrown in a car trunk; he escapes when a pair of dead bodies fall on the vehicle and pop the trunk. A father slaps his grown daughter.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word and six uses of the s-word. A couple of the s-words come from the lips of 13-year-old Cassie. God's name is paired with "d--n" once, and there's one abuse of Jesus' name. A few uses each of "h---" and "d--n" edge the foul language tally up a bit more.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Cassie gets drunk. Why? Apparently her mother, who also could peer into the future, was well-known for having her best visions while tipsy, so Cassie reasons it should work for her, too. While we don't actually see her swig from the bottle, we do see her buy it, open it and later stagger into a hotel room. Earlier, she asks for a vodka martini in a nightclub—again, ostensibly, to improve her visions.
We see Kira injected with the weaponizing serum at the beginning of the film. The chemical apparently causes changes within her body, and it seems as though Kira is slowly dying as a result. Later, Nick injects himself with something some people believe might be the same serum, but it's actually soy sauce. The Division, we're told, has drugged Cassie's mother so she won't be a threat to the organization.
Several characters are shown with glasses of wine in front of them. Kira refers to Jack Daniel's. A few folks smoke, including one fellow who puffs on a long, homemade pipe.
Other Negative Elements
Nick is shown throwing dice, hoping to wipe away previous gambling debts. Despite trying to cheat by manipulating the dice with his mind, he fails, leading to a beat down. A psychic turns bits of paper into what looks like money, which he then spends. With a smirk, Nick references "old toilet paper." Cassie initially lies to get Nick's help.
Moviegoers love their demigods.
From superheroes to vampires to mutants to, now, persecuted psychics, these more-powerful-than-human archetypes populate the screen, living parallel lives just outside the sight of regular folks like you and me. They work on a storytelling plane once populated by semi-divine heroes from ancient Greek and Roman mythology.
Unlike some of those stories, however, Push isn't even remotely concerned with making any kind of moral point. There's no bigger picture lurking under the surface. The psychics in Push may exhibit impressive mind control, but they lack self-control. Even the good guys here cheat, drink, maim and kill in order to further their ends. And while battling evil is good and all, it's fair to question whether it's really necessary, in the process, to impale people on bamboo poles.
We could go on and talk about the dangers of turning mere mortals into flawed superhumans. We could discuss the theological errancy of some of the paranormal powers on display. We could plumb pretty deep.
But this flick doesn't deserve it. Push is an egregious assault on the art of storytelling, a tale with more holes in its plot than a kitchen sponge, more problems than a day-long algebra test. And just about as many content problems—several suicides and a 13-year-old guzzling hard liquor and swearing like a sailor among them.
Oh, and exploding fish.