Toward the end of Push, telekinetic Nick (Chris Evans) comes up with a plan that’ll help him and his superfriends avoid detection from evil psychics: “What if nothing we did made sense?” That more or less sums up Paul McGuigan’s sci-fi saga, a clutter of worn genre elements stitched together with superficial stylistics. In Hong Kong, American expat Nick is living off the grid in order to avoid a dastardly American government agency known as Division, which hunts down those with extraordinary powers so it can turn them into weapons—this despite the fact that most of its employees already appear plenty powerful—and which killed his father years earlier. Nick is soon tracked down by 13-year-old psychic Cassie (Dakota Fanning), who involves him in a quest to find an escaped Division prisoner named Kira (Camilla Belle) whom Nick once loved and who is the key to Division’s militaristic aims.
That the planet’s every paranormal human (all with classifications like “sniffer” and “watcher”) is in Hong Kong makes little sense, but then, McGuigan’s choice of setting—primarily chosen so he can lavish attention on neon signs and fluorescent green bathroom stalls—is as random as his helter-skelter use of varied film stocks. Nick and Cassie aren’t the only ones after Kira, as she’s also coveted by Division baddie Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou, looking dapper whether in a hoodie and gold-rimmed shades or a sleek suit) and a Chinese gang featuring two bug-eyed gentlemen with supersonic shrieks, banal adversaries who don’t complicate matters nearly as much as David Bourla’s plotting. The film’s superheroes-among-us setup isn’t particularly fresh, and the characters’ powers aren’t always clearly defined. (If, for example, Cassie sees the future like photograph snapshots, why are her drawings of these visions always impressionistic cartoons that don’t literally align with reality?)
Still, at least the script is mildly coherent early on, something that can’t be said about the amazingly disorderly last act. Seemingly made up on the fly and demanding intense audience engagement it doesn’t warrant, it’s a messy conclusion to shallow material that—clumsily flirting with issues of second-generation expectations and free will—only really succeeds at making one uncomfortable over Fanning’s inappropriately short miniskirt.