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TIFF 2012 Review: ‘Pusher’ Is the Unnecessary Kind of Remake

By  · Published on September 12th, 2012

by Andrew Robinson

When Frank (Richard Coyle) gets word of a big deal that could help him step up in his drug dealing business, he decides to take the risk and borrows £50,000 worth of drugs from a big kingpin named Milo (Zlatko Buric). Of course, something goes wrong, and Frank leaves the deal without the drugs or the money. As a conciliation prize, he’s got a crazed Eastern European gangster on his ass and a shiny new goal to stay alive through the week.

If, after seeing Pusher, all that can be said to describe it is that it is mediocre, there isn’t much else to say. Luis Prieto took Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 film and made it into a story that could only work if the momentum generated by the barrage of bad decisions made by Frank throughout was great enough to keep the audience’s adrenaline pumping. However, the film’s constant use of bad characters, including a ridiculously over the top Milo, leaves something more to be desired.

As the film continues from point to point and Frank’s situation gets worse and worse, we see the degradation of his mental state and increase in his own perception of how bad his situation is. As this is happening we see the camera give these odd shakes and go off-color from time to time to show how crazed he’s becoming. This, while a nice technique, only draws attention to all the things in the film that don’t need more attention. It’s a catalyst, pointing out elements that unfortunately remove us from the world of fiction in the worst way possible.

A lot of the performances in the movie are unremarkable. Tony (Bronson Webb) keeps things funny for the most part, but not in way that leaves the film on a Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels level of fun. Milo is the worst kind of stereotypical Eastern European gangster who’s whole character is that he laughs off a lot, talks really calmly and bakes Turkish delicacies in an attempt to be scary.

Notably, Pusher also lacks any interesting female characters, delivering only a stripper called Flo (Agyness Deyn). She’s present for the sole purpose of having more breasts on screen. When she does affect the plot, by increasing the tally of Franks poor decisions, it’s done more as a device to make Frank have to go through another twenty minutes of poor decisions than anything resembling an honest plot note.

The movie almost feels as if it’s a slow night at a club. The music is playing and bumping out but after about ten minutes, you realize there’s no one interesting on the dance floor and you lose interest.

The Upside: If your afternoon is free and this is the only film you can see, it’s not a complete waste

The Downside: Bad characters who make bad decisions lead to uninteresting conclusions

On the Side: His original version in 1996 launched Refn as a filmmaker

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