Writer Matthew Read and director Luis Prieto faced a tall task when taking on the remake of the successful Nicolas Winding Refn movie Pusher. The original was so good that it sparked a trilogy that eventually led to the mainstream success of Refn’s American hit Drive starring Ryan Gosling. Undaunted, Read and Prieto set about to make their own film and the result is one of the best movies I’ve seen at Fantastic Fest 2012.
The characters aren’t very different and the scenes are very true to the original, but the biggest difference is the tone. The original movie takes place in the dark and violent setting of the Danish underground, while the new movie is set in the loud and glitzy club scene of London. It has more humor and the action and pace is much quicker.
Frank, played by Richard Coyle (Covert Affairs, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), is a small-time drug dealer that hangs out with a comic relief lackey named Tony, played by Bronson Webb, and his stripper girlfriend Flo, played by British supermodel Agyness Deyn (Clash of the Titans). Frank rarely gets in over his head. He’s got a small apartment with his girlfriend and they spend a lot of time partying it up in the London underground club scene. He’s not poor, but he’s not living the high life either. It appears that his luck is about to change though as a deal in Amsterdam and another with a new buyer are about to go down and put him in big money. Unfortunately, the two deals go south. When the cops chase Frank down, he has to dump a $50,000 stash in a pond. The drug lord he got the stash from doesn’t believe his story and now wants to collect quickly. Frank should have the money to pay him off except that the deal in Amsterdam was a bust as well. Now Frank has little time to come up with big money or he’ll die at the hands of his debtor.
The action and tone of the film are so well directed by Prieto and the actors do a great job in the chase scenes as well as the club scenes. What’s surprisingly great about this movie is the depth of the characters, especially Flo, who steals every scene she’s in despite not having much screen time. Frank isn’t a good guy. He’s a drug dealer. He’s comfortable and content, but he doesn’t want anything more, which frustrates Flo because she wants more from their relationship. Frank even (unbelievably) turns her down for sex on occasion because if they’re making love rather than having a drug- and party-fueled romp, then he’s not interested. The desperation and the dark places he goes for the money get the audience to like him in the beginning to slowly despising him by the end.
While Coyle carries the movie and Deyn shines when she’s onscreen, the audience’s favorite character is clearly the drug lord Milo played by Zlatko Buric, the only actor from the original film to appear in this one. He plays the same character, but in a different way. Milo actually likes Frank. While Frank owes him a little bit of money, he’s never been a disappointment. Even after Frank doesn’t show up with the money, Milo is cracking jokes and is willing to give him time to pay him back. But when Frank starts avoiding Milo and keeps asking for time, that’s when he becomes a serious and deadly threat: a flipping between a violent rage and deadly serenity.
The film goes by quickly. It runs almost 90 minutes, but feels like it’s barely been an hour by the time the story is over; a testament to the way Prieto combines the desperation of the characters, club scene soundtrack, and action scenes. This movie will be released on October 26th, but I would go so far as to say that you should spend your money by downloading it on iTunes this Friday so you can enjoy this movie over and over again. It’s definitely worth owning.