Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pusher: Remade with Refn’s Blessing

Kids, pay attention to the following unsolicited guidance counseling: selling drugs may sound like a quick and an easy way to make money, but it can land you deep in debt to the wrong sort of people.  One London dealer learns this the hard way in Luis Prieto’s remake of Nicholas Winding Refn’s Pusher (trailer here), executive-produced by Danish filmmaker, which opens this Friday in New York.

Frank goes to a lot of parties and folks are always happy to see him, because he is the man with the drugs.  He enjoys living the fast life with his girlfriend Flo, a stripper who turns the odd pro gig on the side.  Together with his loser sidekick Tony he deals on an unsentimental, cash-and-carry basis.  However, he makes the mistake of leveraging himself with Milo, a notorious Balkan gangster, when a mysterious former associate pops up looking to buy a serious chunk of cocaine.  When the cops break up the deal, Frank is still on the hook with Milo.

Over the next week, Frank will careen through London, trying to collect debts and set-up a Hail Mary score, but not at the expense of his hedonistic lifestyle.  Eventually, Milo’s top enforcer Hakan will even lend a kneecap-breaking hand, knowing full well he will soon turn his talents on Frank.

If any film were ever amped up on coke it would be Prieto’s Pusher, an English language reboot of a Danish film from a Spanish director, featuring the Croatian-born Zlatko Burić, reprising the role of Milo, whom he portrayed throughout Refn’s original trilogy.  Propelled by a disorienting techno soundtrack, the film never gives the audience a minute to reconsider their sympathetic investment in the amoral Frank.  Instead, we just root along with him out of respect for his high wire act.

Often teetering on the brink of full-on substance related mania, Richard Coyle is impressively intense as Frank.  Following his genial turn in the tight-little-island creature mash-up Grabbers, it is quite a surprise to see he had this in him.  Model turned actress Agyness Deyn also far exceeds expectations, portraying Flo with dignity and depth.  Once again, Burić does his thing, villainously chewing the scenery as Milo.  Yet, the standout support comes from Mem Ferda, unusually smart and funny as the philosophical Hakan.  Unfortunately, Bronson Webb is just uncharismatic dead weight as the annoying-by-the-numbers Tony.

Cinematographer Simon Dennis tries to out slick every Michael Mann crime drama ever with his cool neon and noir look.  Sleazy but effective escapism, what Prieto’s Pusher lacks in depth it makes up for with its unpretentious directness.  Recommended for those nostalgic for Miami Vice and the sort of old school Britspoitation films that always seemed to have Roy Budd soundtracks, Pusher opens this Friday (10/26) in New York at the Village East Cinema.