Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dealer: Like Pusher, but More French

Dan is a low life who understands the benefits of specialization. Ordinarily, he only sells fun drugs, like XTC. Heavy stuff like coke brings too much heat. However, he will break his own rules for a wealthy regular client. Of course, things will go spectacularly bad. We know that will happen right from the start and so does Dan, yet he goes down that rabbit hole anyway in Jean Luc Herbulot’s Dealer (trailer here), which releases today on DVD.

That is Dan wearing the old school CCCP starter jacket, out of some ironic hipster nostalgia for one of the most oppressive regimes in recorded human history, so he basically deserves all the misfortune about to come crashing down on his ignorant head. At least he has the sense to want out of the life now that he has a daughter to worry about. His dream is to take her away to Australia where they can start fresh. Quickly flipping a kilo of cocaine would bring him a lot closer to the Outback. So when his yuppie scum customer insists, Dan goes off to see the frighteningly soft-spoken Delo.

Dan does not feel comfortable carrying around Delo’s kilo, which is sort of smart. However, he decides to stash it in the toilet of his resentful hooker girlfriend Chris, which is hole-in-the-head stupid. When said package promptly disappears, Dan chases off after it, with his suspicious acting crony Salem and Delo’s humorless muscle Cartouche in tow.

Basically Dealer is another ticking clock drug deal gone wrong movie, in the tradition of the Pusher remake and the original before it. Say what you will, but these films are certainly economical when it comes to titles. Regardless, we have seen much of this film before (stylistically, it also harkens back to Run Lola Run), at least until a gang of Roma armed robbers start making things interesting.

Nicolas Salet, Lionel Sautier, and GrĂ©gory Turbellier, the trio of credited cinematographers, somehow combine to give it a consistent, distinctively frenetic street-level run-and-gun look. Still, style points can only take it so far, especially when there is a big zero in the film where the protagonist should be. As his namesake, co-producer Dan Bronchinson is appropriately weathered looking, but his character insufficiently sketched out. In the villain department, Bruno Henry’s less is more approach is somehow strangely effective for Delo. In contrast, Elsa Madeleine’s Chris is like fingernails on a blackboard (and not because her voice is sharply pitched).

Give Dan some credit. With a running time under seventy-five minutes, he does not waste any time ruining his life. There is also a sound morale to the story. Stick to dealing manageable clubland drugs rather than getting involved with the big time contraband. Are you listening, state of Colorado? Frankly somewhat disappointing, Dealer is now available on DVD from Artsploitation.