Besides the urban sprawls stalked by Batman and Spidey and the Philadelphian chill that seeps into Unbreakable’s brittle bones, comic-book flicks often take place in airbrushed North American anywheres.
Unusually for the genre, Paul McGuigan’s Lucky Number Slevin follow-up defines itself more by the intoxicating strangeness of its Hong Kong setting than the assorted Pushers, Sniffers and Bleeders who live there.
Though these guys sound like sexual deviants, they’re actually psychics with mind-bending powers. Living off-radar in a rundown HK tenement, Nick (Chris Evans) is a Mover (telekinetic) whose day heads rapidly downhill when he meets Cassie (Dakota Fanning), a tweenaged Watcher (soothsayer) whose drawings depict potential – but preventable – doom if the duo don’t save his ex (Camilla Belle) from government spooks.
They’re an awkward trio. Evans is a lunk-headed lead; Fanning, wearing a permanent I-Told-You-So expression (chiefly because she did), is an eminently slappable Hermione figure and the bland Belle leaves much to be desired as a muse.
Still, when they let rip, Push explodes into action, McGuigan’s assured, muscular direction prodding the 12A certificate to its limits. In a stand-out stand-off, Nick and Cassie are attacked in a seafood market by Bleeders, whose ear-splitting screams shatter the aquariums, spewing glass, water and ruby-red fish guts everywhere.
Later, sparks (quite literally) fly as two Movers indulge in some crunchy face-hurting with whatever leaps (again, quite literally) to hand.
Unconcerned with plot logic or character development, Push seems entranced with the endless possibilities of this universe. It’s an ambitious, original effort, but eventually McGuigan jettisons all sense in favour of sensation, and the film begins to feel like one of Cassie’s drawings: a vivid, if childish, flight of fancy that nearly, but not quite, comes good.
Sloppily conceived but directed with flair, Push is bound to split the vote. Look closely and its disparate pieces fit clumsily together; step back and the overall effect has an undeniable allure.