Pusher - SideReel Review

Pusher - SideReel Review

A film seemingly tailor-made for subtitle-phobes, director Luis Prieto’s Pusher presents viewers with a slick yet pale imitation of Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn’s inspired 1997 directorial debut.

London drug dealer Frank (Richard Coyle) is about to have a very bad week. Convinced by his best friend Tony (Bronson Webb) to take on a new client (Neil Maskell), Frank gets a kilo of cocaine from his regular supplier Milo (Zlatko Buric, reprising his role from the original trilogy) and heads out to make the deal. But just as the drugs are changing hands, the police pounce. Impulsively, Frank dumps the entire kilo in a local river to destroy the evidence. Yet while Frank’s fast thinking gets him out of being officially charged for dealing, it also puts him £55,000 in debt to the vicious Milo. Since Milo considers Frank a friend, he gives him a few days to come up with the cash on his own. Unfortunately, finding such a large amount on short notice is easier said than done, and with every hour that passes Frank grows increasingly frantic. By the time Milo’s main henchman Hakan (Mem Ferda) shows up to collect, Frank has betrayed virtually everyone he knows, including his mother and his gorgeous yet damaged girlfriend Flo (Agyness Deyn), leaving him alone and desperate as he races to find a way out of his deadly dilemma.

The second U.K. remake of Winding Refn’s Pusher (a Hindi-language version was released in 2010), this take on the material is as competent as it is unnecessary. The story, structure, and characters are almost identical to the original film, leaving director Prieto and screenwriter Matthew Read with little more to do than update the style and the dialogue. Alas, the oversaturated, hyper-stylized sheen that Prieto and cinematographer Simon Dennis cast over the material is nowhere near as effective as the gritty, handheld approach that Refn originally employed to tell the tale, giving this Pusher a handsome but hollow polish that reeks of artifice. It’s a bit of a shame, because while even back in 1997 the story in Pusher could hardly be described as "original," it was Refn’s approach that made it feel fresh and vital enough to warrant a pair of sequels that improved with each installment.

However, the performances by leads Coyle, Webb, and model-turned-actress Deyn are all convincing and effective. A charismatic presence on the screen, Coyle expresses the moral descent of his character through subtle shifts in behavior and expression; meanwhile, a noticeably aged Buric conjures the same frightening blend of joviality and menace that made Milo such a memorable character in the original trilogy. It’s their performances -- not the tiresome additions of dubstep, contemporary slang, or flashy effects -- that make this superfluous remake watchable. There’s no denying the genuine talent involved on both sides of the camera in this Pusher, but those talents would be put to better use creating something original rather than recycling the material another filmmaker built his career on. Perhaps when Prieto finally gets the opportunity to create something unique, his passion will truly shine through.

-Jason Buchanan


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