Psychokinesis review: not as fresh or invigorating as Train to Busan

Yeon Sang-Ho’s follow-up to his rapturously received zombie pic Train to Busan isn’t as fresh and invigorating an experience. It resorts to a few too many boilerplate beats, and suffers from tonal whiplashing that sits uncomfortably in the context of the real-life tragedy that it’s partially based on.

The latter — a deadly 2009 clash in Seoul’s Yongsan district between riot police and redevelopment protesters — is echoed in Psychokinesis’ plot: a schlubby security guard (Ryu Seung-ryong), after drinking mysterious asteroid fluid from a mountain spring, finds himself an unwitting hero to embattled, soon-to-be-evicted business owners.

Much less cosmically scaled than Marvel and DC juggernauts — think Chronicle or Hancock — the film does produce minor rewards for its resolutely blue collar, for-the-people, sensibilities. It’s an earnest David vs Goliath story with no fancy outfits, geeky gadgets or elaborate team-ups.

Superhero tropes are doled out competently, but lack genuine surprise. Its CGI parade of levitating objects, skyscraper pogo-ing and crushed metal are par for the course. But Yeon conjures occasional instances of inspiration: the scene where Ryu tries to impress his estranged daughter by turning a necktie into a snake-dancing cobra positively recalls the heartfelt, grin-inducing magic of Stephen Chow.

I also appreciated the running gag involving Ryu considering a newfound career as a magician. At a brisk 100 minutes, Psychokinesis is difficult to completely hate, but its blend of overwrought melodrama, dopey slapstick and assembly line spectacle requires some adjusting to along the way.

Psychokinesis is now streaming on Netflix