'Push'

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Not, repeat, not to be confused with this year's Sundance sensation, this "Push" is a recycled sci-fi action thriller concerning a sinister government agency that hunts down those with paranormal powers for its own nefarious motives.

While the concept of corralling assorted Movers (those with telekinetic talents), Watchers (clairvoyants) and, of course, Pushers (mind controllers with the ability to alter one's memories) and placing them against a stylish Asian backdrop is intriguing, the picture seldom rises to the occasion.

Instead, director Paul McGuigan and screenwriter David Bourla are content to rely on the usual suspects, taking their visual and dramatic cues from other, more clever and involving sci-fi capers.

Despite its high-profile cast and a sizable marketing push from distributor Summit Entertainment, audiences won't require any paranormal powers of their own to realize they've seen this one before.

Having demonstrated a knack for spontaneous combustion as the Human Torch in the "Fantastic Four" movies, Chris Evans is a natural for the role of Nick Gant, a second-generation Mover who has been hiding out in Hong Kong since the murder of his father a decade or so ago.

The perpetrators are known as the Division, a shadowy agency embodied by Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou), a particularly powerful Pusher who'll stop at nothing to track down a highly valuable briefcase.

Determined to get there first is Cassie Holmes (Dakota Fanning), a gifted Watcher who has tracked down Nick, presumably after failing to get into the X-Men academy.

With all the mythology that's been laid down, you keep expecting "Push" to build to one big paranormapalooza of a finale, but it never materializes.

Rather, there's a lot of tedious nonsense involving decoy suitcases and floating revolvers — though the blood-vessel shattering, screaming Bleeders are sort of fun — with director McGuigan ("Lucky Number Slevin," "Wicker Park") pushing the visuals at every opportunity without managing to push the two-hour story forward.

It's nice to see the gifted Fanning ease into more adult roles, though she and the quietly powerful presence that customarily is Hounsou seem to have lost a bit of their edge doing battle in a production that continually chooses style over substance. (partialdiff)
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