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By Mark Bell | April 7, 2006

You just want to start slapping anyone who thinks dabbling in drug dealing is going to be an easy way to make money. When Mickey (William DePaolo) sees a drug dealer drop his wares before being arrested in a club, Mickey snatches up the drugs and takes it back to his buddies Joe (Chad Lindberg) and Kevin (Pierce Forsythe). The three then debate about whether to return the bag of Ecstacy tablets to the local kingpin for a small pittance or offer their services to sell the bag’s contents to make a larger cut. If they just handed over the bag and walked away, there’d be no movie.

Push tells the story of these three friends as they attempt to play the role of street dealer when they are terribly ill-fitted for the part. Only Lindberg’s Joe has any street sense about him, as Kevin is a stock-broker with a hard-on for money and power (as he attempts to emulate the top stock-broker in their firm, Tommy G, played brilliantly by Michael Rapaport) and Mickey is a trust-fund baby whose major motivation seems to be the “prestige” and women that may come once he’s known as a major player. Joe just wants to sell the bag, get out and invest the money in his own business. In a perfect world, maybe it’d all work out.

The film’s major strength is the stellar performances given by nearly every person to grace the screen. It is very rare to find a film that is this packed with amazing acting. If you can’t be in awe of Pierce Forsythe’s slow unravel as Kevin’s power lust and weak character overwhelm him, maybe you’ll find yourself praising Christopher Jordan’s portrayal of street enforcer Manny, a role that could’ve been all rage and one-note testosterone but is actually a subtle display of a man doing the only job he knows. There’s just too many great character moments to choose from, with Paul-Ben Victor as a gay drag queen, Chazz Palminteri as a bar owner with a mentor/father realtionship to Joe… they’re all outstanding. Kudos must be given to director Rodriguez for not only assembling the cast but also getting the level of performance from them that he did.

Ultimately, though, the performance that carries the film is Chad Lindberg’s. Lindberg’s Joe is the one who ultimately takes responsibility for his friends’ actions, and as things start to spiral out of control he’s the one left to pick up the pieces (and most often, those pieces are chunks of himself, philosophically speaking of course). If Lindberg slips up in his portrayal at any moment, if he becomes unsympathetic or false, this film could fall apart as well. It’s a testament to his top-grade acting that this is never the case.

If the film has any shortcomings, it’s that we all know where the film is going the minute the boys start discussing selling the Ecstacy. Sure, we may not know precisely how things are going to go to s**t, but we know that they’re going to, because isn’t that how all these tales go?

But in the end, so what if you know what’s coming, as this is a character piece in rare form. The joy isn’t so much in how the story plays out but how the characters play out emotionally. Push is an acting gem, and it’s worth checking out to see a bunch of known and unknown actors tearing it up.

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