Push (2009 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul McGuigan
Produced by
Written by David Bourla
Narrated by Dakota Fanning
Music by Neil Davidge
Cinematography Peter Sova
Edited by Nicolas Trembasiewicz
Distributed by Summit Entertainment
Release date
  • February 6, 2009 (2009-02-06)
Running time
111 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $38 million[2]
Box office $48.9 million[2]

Push is a 2009 American science fiction action-thriller film directed by Paul McGuigan and written by David Bourla. Starring Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Camilla Belle, and Djimon Hounsou. The film centers on a group of people born with various superhuman abilities who band together in order to take down a government agency that is using a dangerous drug to enhance their powers in hopes of creating an army of super soldiers.

The film was released on February 6, 2009 by Summit Entertainment and Icon Productions. It was a moderate box office success, though critical reception was mostly negative.


In 1945, the United States set up the Division, a government agency that tracks, captures, and experiments on people who possess psychic abilities, creating an arms race for superhuman powers. Each psychic is categorised into various groups based on what powers they have. Decades later, two “Movers”, teenager Nick Gant and his father Jonah hide from Agent Carver, a Division “Pusher”. Jonah tells Nick he received a vision from a “Watcher”, about a young girl Nick must help to bring down the Division. Nick flees while Jonah is murdered by Carver.

Years later, Carver has developed a drug which can boost psychic abilities. All test subjects have died, until a Pusher named Kira successfully adapts to it. However, she escapes, stealing a syringe of the drug and flees to Hong Kong. Nick lives in Hong Kong as an expatriate, but is visited by Cassie Holmes, a moody teenage Watcher, whose mother, Sarah, is considered the strongest Watcher, and aided in Kira’s escape. Cassie convinces Nick to help her find the briefcase containing the stolen drug. They are attacked by the Chinese triad, led by a “Bleeder”, his two sons, and a Watcher daughter nicknamed “Pop Girl”. Nick is badly wounded by the Bleeders, but is healed by Teresa Stowe, an opportunistic “Stitch”.

Using the drawings Cassie creates, she and Nick track down Kira, who is actually Nick’s ex-girlfriend. Kira hid the case and then had a “Wiper” erase her memory of its location. Nick recruits a “Shadow” named Pinky to cover Kira from the sight of the Division’s Watchers. Cassie attempts to foresee the case’s location, competing with the stronger yet cocky Pop Girl. Nick’s group escape the Bleeders, before splitting up. Nick meets Carver and his assistant Victor, a talented Mover, learning Kira will become ill without the drug’s support. The Movers battle until Carver leaves, wanting the current future to go as planned. Cassie finds a key in Kira’s shoe, which unlocks a locker atop a construction site, where the case is hidden.

To distract Carver and the triad, Nick proposes an elaborate plan to obtain the drug and eliminate their enemies. He creates several envelopes containing instructions for each of his friends, including “Shifter” Hook Waters and fortune tellerSniff” Emily Hu, and employs the Wiper who erased Kira’s memory to do the same to his regarding the plan, to throw off Pop Girl. Hooks locates the case, creating a duplicate of it and the syringe, while Pinky delivers Kira to Carver as part of the plan. Carver then pushes her into believing she is actually a Division agent and her relationship with Nick was a lie.

Cassie is confronted by Pop Girl, only for the Wiper to appear and erases the girl’s memory, as per instructions from Nick. Nick, upon regaining his memories, visits Carver, discovering Kira’s brainwashing. They travel to the construction site where Carver unknowingly retrieves the fake case, but the triad arrive, leading to a lengthy battle between the various factions. During the fight, the triad members and Victor are killed. Nick seizes the fake syringe and injects himself with it, apparently dying. After Kira and Carver leave, Cassie appears, revealing Nick is alive. They retrieve the real case and syringe from a dumpster, planning to use it to free Cassie’s mother from Division, who had foreseen the whole narrative and plotted it out before her capture.

In a final scene, Kira discovers her unopened envelope, which contains photographs proving her relationship with Nick was real. She then pushes Carver into committing suicide.


Dakota Fanning at the film's premiere
  • Chris Evans as Nick Gant, a Mover living in Hong Kong in order to stay hidden from Division, whose father was killed by Carver. He was born in America and once had a relationship with Kira. Nick uses his ability to control dice in order to affect betting games as a source of income, although not always successfully.
  • Dakota Fanning as Cassie Holmes, the daughter of the greatest Watcher the Division has ever encountered, and a Watcher in her own right. Like all abilities, hers is not fully developed as this happens through training. She is sometimes confused by what she draws in her premonitions.
    • Cassie's mother Sarah Frank is uncredited; a powerful Watcher who was captured by the Division to prevent her use of powers against them. It is through her that most of the events occur as she helped Kira escape Division HQ, paid Wo to erase Kira's memories, as well as get Teresa in the right place to heal Nick, and told Nick's father to tell his son to follow the one who gave him a flower. This alone shows the strength of her Watcher abilities, as she saw this all happen at least a decade ago where most can only see a few hours or days into the future.
Camilla Belle at the film's premiere
  • Camilla Belle as Kira Hudson/Hollis, a high-level Pusher, a recent escapee of the Division, and the only Division patient to have survived experimentation.
  • Djimon Hounsou as Agent Henry Carver, a Division agent and a powerful Pusher who killed Nick's father. He is sent to recapture Kira.
  • Joel Gretsch as Jonah Gant, Nick's father and an advanced Mover whose refusal to join the Division cost him his life. It is implied that he and Hook once worked in the Division together.
  • Ming-Na Wen as Emily Wu, a Sniffer who helps Nick and Cassie find Kira. She works as a fortune teller in Hong Kong.
  • Cliff Curtis as Hook Waters, a Shifter. He used to be in the Division and after getting out, his wife died in a suspicious car accident and he knew the Division was involved. Since he moved to Hong Kong he has begun hanging out in high-class escort bars where he uses his shifting ability to pay his way. He implies that Nick's father had a similar past and it is confirmed in the comics that both used to work for the Division. He has a habit of saying "that won't last long" after he uses his abilities.
  • Nate Mooney as Pinky Stein, a Shadow who hid Kira from the Sniffs. His nickname is derived from the Division's removal of his right pinky finger.
  • Corey Stoll as Agent Mack, a Sniffer agent.
  • Scott Michael Campbell as Agent Holden, a Sniffer agent.
  • Neil Jackson as Victor Budarin, an advanced Mover and Carver's right-hand man.
  • Maggie Siff as Teresa Stowe, a Stitch who helps heal Nick after an encounter with the Bleeders, as requested by Cassie's mother, who told her to be in a certain place at a certain time and help whomever was there. She is, however, not seen as altruistic, but, instead, out for personal gain rather than helping Cassie and Nick overthrow the Division.
  • Paul Car as Wo Chiang, a Wiper who lives on a house boat in Hong Kong Harbour.
  • Xiao Lu Li as Pop Girl, a Chinese Triad Watcher who tries to find Nick and Cassie throughout Hong Kong. Like Cassie, she draws her visions. Her visions are based on others' intentions and decisions.
  • Kwan Fung Chi and Jacky Heung as Pop Boys, the two Triad Bleeders.
  • Haruhiko Yamanouchi as Pop Father, Triad Bleeder and father to the three 'Pop' siblings.

Types of superhumans[edit]

There are nine types of psychics in Push, which are:[3][4][5]

Watchers have the ability to foresee the future to varying degrees. As knowledge of the future invariably causes that future to change, Watchers' visions of the future in their direct sphere of influence are subject to frequent shifting. To keep track and better understand their visions, most watchers keep small art journals in which they draw what they see. Watchers' visions are like a sense of déjà vu. Watchers can get visions at will. Drinking alcoholic beverages can temporarily enhance a Watcher's abilities (as shown by Cassie). Cassie and Pop Girl are Watchers. Cassie's Mother has been revealed to be the most powerful Watcher in the world, setting all the events and foreseeing them even decades earlier, also saying them to Nick's father.
Movers are powerful telekinetics who are trained to identify the specific atomic frequencies of a given material and alter the gravitational field around it, usually causing the nearby air to appear "warped". This allows them to move both animate and inanimate objects. Advanced Movers can work at the molecular level, creating shields in the air around them to deflect bullets or create power fists and kicks, a strike that delivers three times the power of a normal punch. Nick is a Mover, with his abilities at a basic level at the start of the film, developing Advanced abilities later on. Victor, Carver's right-hand man, is a more advanced Mover with abilities to create shields and power-strikes. Nick's father was also an advanced Mover.
Pushers have the ability to implant memories, thoughts and emotions into the minds of other people in order to manipulate them. The skill level of the Pusher determines how many people the Pusher is able to control at one time, and how vivid the implanted memories are. A powerful Pusher can push a large group of people at the same time, basically creating a personal army. A Pusher is able to make a person do anything the Pusher desires, even commit suicide. A Pusher's eyes indicate how powerful they are: their pupils will dilate to certain degrees depending on how powerful the push is (for example, Henry Carver's eyes are rendered completely black, signifying that he is an extremely able and effective Pusher). Kira is also an very powerful Pusher, controlling 12 people at the same time.
Bleeders have the ability to emit high-pitched sonic vibrations that cause ruptures in a target's blood vessels. While using this ability, their pupils turn into vertical slits, like a snake's, because of synthetic materials implanted in them to protect their blood vessels from the effects of their own ability. They are also sometimes known as Screechers or Screamers. Pop Girl's brothers and father, the Triads, are Bleeders. Pop Girl's brothers are powerful enough to destroy locks on doors and shattering glasses to pieces, showing that they are advanced Bleeders. Pop Girl's father is a very powerful Bleeder, capable of collapsing an entire building in rage.
Sniffs are highly developed psychometrics who can track the location of people or objects over varying distances. Like bloodhounds, their ability is increased if they have tactile access to an object that has been in direct contact with the subject. Sniffs receive information in the form of images, which is why identifiable landmarks help increase their effectiveness. Emily Hu is a highly trained Sniff, and she uses her powers for money. Carver's associates who kidnapped Kira are also Sniffs.
Shifters can temporarily alter the appearance of an object by manipulating patterns of light interacting with it. Once the illusion is established, it remains with the object for a short period of time. For example, a Shifter could touch a one dollar bill and alter it to appear as a one hundred dollar bill until the effect expires. The object shifted must have roughly the same dimensions as the object it is shifted into. The length of time that the effect will last is based on the Shifter's experience. Hook Waters, an ex-Division agent and Nick's friend, is a highly experienced Shifter, capable of turning a large suitcase into a fake one and managing to hold the illusion for 6-7 hours.
Wipers are skilled at either temporarily or permanently erasing memories, an invaluable asset in espionage. Experience will dictate the accuracy of their wipes, though there is always the danger that they will eliminate a desired memory. Wo Chiang, an old fisherman who lives on a dock, is a Wiper who uses his powers on those who request it for money. He erases part of Nick's and Kira's memories in the film. It can be speculated that Wipers can send mental blasts into a target's brain or put high mind-stress into their wipes for offensive means, as shown by Wo Chiang when he saves Cassie from Pop Girl by sneaking up behind her and rendering her unconscious, either through the mental-blast method or deliberately over-stressing her mind through his wipe.
Shadows are trained to block the visions of other clairvoyants, such as Sniffs, by diverting the attention of the target radius so that they "flicker" through different locations other than the subject's actual whereabouts. Experience will enhance the size of the area they can shadow and the intensity of their shielding effect. Shadows need to be awake to manifest their ability, so it is common for a detail of two Shadows to operate in shifts while protecting a person or object for extended periods. Most Shadows are effective only against Sniffs, but some extremely powerful Shadows are able to block even Watchers. Pinky, a friend of Nick's, is a Shadow for hire, and he is effective only against Sniffs and is shown to be inferior to the Division's Shadows. Like other characters, he also uses his powers for money. An old woman hired by Kira to hide the syringe has the ability to shadow an entire building, even from Watchers.
Stitches are psychic healers trained to quickly reconstruct cells to their previous or healthy state. Using only their hands, they can heal and even "un-heal" whatever they have done. For more detailed work, Stitches use a silver-based cream on their hands that acts as a conductor for their ability. Teresa Stowe is a powerful Stitch, capable of healing Nick's back to pristine shape and also disabling him later in the film, who also uses the cream.


Director Paul McGuigan at the film's premiere

Box office[edit]

On its opening weekend, the film opened #6 grossing $10,079,109 in 2,313 theaters with a $4,358 average.[6] The film grossed $48,858,618 worldwide, and $16,285,488 in DVD sales in the US alone making $65,157,106 (not including worldwide DVD sales) surpassing its budget cost of $38 million by over $27 million.[2]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 23% approval rating based on 127 reviews and a rating average of 4.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The sci-fi thriller Push is visually flashy but hyperkinetic and convoluted."[7] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average to critic reviews, gave the film an average score of 36 out of 100, based on 21 critics.[8] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one and a half stars out of four stating: ""Push" has vibrant cinematography and decent acting, but I'm blasted if I know what it's about."[9] Robert Koehler of Variety also gave a negative review calling the film: “A confused jumble of parts in search of a whole, Push plays like a mix-tape sample of scenes from Heroes, Fringe, Alias and The X-Files as it follows good guys gifted with paranormal powers trying to stave off bad guys with the same…”[10]

Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter gave a negative review: “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.”[11] Tasha Robinson of The A.V. Club was more positive towards the film, giving it a B+: "Superhero fans will likely be into Push just for the cool-factor of watching embattled heroes and villains in a tense war of wits, wills, and skills. That broader audience is less likely to come along for the ride, but this particular gateway drug at least has ambition and brains going for it, as well as the usual spastic style."[12]


Wildstorm, an imprint of DC Comics, published a comic book mini-series that acts as a prequel to the film. It was written by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman (who write The Highwaymen for Wildstorm) and Bruno Redondo supplied the art.[13] Issues were published between November 2008 and February 2009, and a softcover collection (ISBN 978-1401224929) was published in September, 2009.

Home release[edit]

Push was released on DVD and Blu-ray on July 7, 2009. The DVD included deleted scenes, a commentary, and a 'making of' featurette. Wal-Mart released the film as a double-feature DVD with Knowing.

Soundtrack and score[edit]

No official soundtrack has been released, although the full score is available to stream online on the official Neil Davidge website.

Artist Title
The Kills What New York Used to Be
Yin Xiangjie The Love Of Boat Trackers
Radio Citizen and Bajka The Hop
Working for a Nuclear Free City Rocket
Neil Davidge Original music for Push
Daniele Benatie and Fernando Paterlini Everybody Ciao
South Rakkas Crew Elevator China
The Notwist Consequence
South Rakkas Crew China Funk
The Old Ceremony Bao Qian
Jiang Xianwei A Visit to Suzhou

See also[edit]

  • Stargate Project, the real U.S. Federal Government project to investigate psychic phenomena, used as a basis for the film.


  1. ^ "PUSH (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. January 19, 2009. Retrieved September 29, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "Push (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  3. ^ "Film review: Push". The Guardian. 22 February 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  4. ^ O'hara, Helen. "Push Review". Empire Online. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  5. ^ Chen, David. "Movie Review: Push". Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  6. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for February 6–8, 2009". Box Office Mojo. 2009-02-08. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  7. ^ "Push (2009) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 1, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Push Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 1, 2016. 
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 4, 2009). "Push Movie Review & Film Summary (2009)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016. 
  10. ^ Koehler, Robert (February 1, 2009). "Push Variety". Variety. Retrieved May 1, 2016. 
  11. ^ Rechtshaffen, Michael (February 2, 2009). "Film Review: Push - Hollywood Reporter". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 1, 2016. 
  12. ^ Robinson, Tasha (February 5, 2009). "Push Film Review - AV Club". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 1, 2016. 
  13. ^ SDCC 08: Wildstorm Snares Push License, IGN, July 22, 2008

External links[edit]