Imagine if the X-Men had spent most of their time sitting around talking about how they were going to fight Magneto instead of ever actually doing anything and you'll have a good sense of what is wrong with Push. A curiously inert and talky action picture about good-looking mutants on the run from bad (but equally good-looking) ones, Push wastes a decent idea and stylish direction on a script that's much more Ingmar Bergman than Stan Lee.
Director Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin) establishes the complicated premise over the opening credits, laying out the dilemma faced by a group of people who, as a result of secret government experiments to create an army of genetically gifted warriors, now have one of several different powers. "Pushers" can put thoughts into your head. "Movers" are telekinetics. "Watchers" can draw the future. "Sniffers" can track anyone down by their scent.
And "sleepers" are the people in the theater stuck sitting through Push. Set in Hong Kong, the movie centers on the "mover" Nick (Chris Evans) and the "watcher" Cassie (Dakota Fanning), who are being pursued by a government agent (Djimon Hounsou) and a gang of assassins for reasons much too complicated to lay out here. It's enough that Evans makes for a charismatic, set-upon hero, and the eerily talented Fanning even pulls off her first drunk scene, which one hopes was purely a Method exercise and not based on personal experience.
The exceptionally talented cinematographer Peter Sova (The Strangers, Wicker Park) fills Push with entrancing eye candy that turns the bustling Hong Kong backdrop into a veritable character in the film. But the screenplay by David Bourla makes the fatal mistake of constantly telling instead of showing. The characters in Push spout so much backstory and exposition that the movie eventually becomes impossible to follow. An early showdown at a fish market is excitingly filmed, but there aren't nearly enough good action sequences to make up for the plodding pace.
Worst of all, Push doesn't even reach the big climax the entire story has been building toward. Instead, the movie just stops, as if the filmmakers decided to save the ending for the sequel. Call them "dreamers."