R (pervasive drug content, strong language, strong sexuality, nudity, violence); 88 min.
Pusher is a straight, no chaser thriller set on the bottom rung of the drug-trade ladder. A remake of a 1996 Danish thriller, it's a pulsating, propulsive and nerve-wracking film that breathes new life into a genre whose tropes wore out long ago.
The characters include a pusher in over his head, his mouthy friend, his stripper-junkie girlfriend, the "mule" about to run to "the 'Dam" (Amsterdam) for him and the Middle Eastern muscle who expects payment for debts overdue. Luis Prieto, working with producer Nicolas Winding Refn, who directed Drive and the original Pusher, pushes the pace so that those over-familiar settings, situations and characters don't stand still long enough to grow stale.
British TV vet Richard Coyle is Frank, a low-rent drug dealer with a model-skinny girlfriend (Agyness Deyn) who pole-dances at night and shoots up or snorts during the day. Frank's pal Tony (Bronson Webb) chatters away to one and all and stumbles into trouble from which Frank must rescue him.
A deal that's too good to be true has Frank going into hock with his supplier pal, Milo, played with a malevolent brio by Zlatko Buric, who had the same role in the original film and a 2010 version of the same tale. Milo is a back-slapping baklava-lover, until Frank is late paying him back.
Pusher may be Layer Cake and a score of other got-to-get-the-money thrillers remade. But the unblinking, unglamorous world it captures, the fear that overcomes guilt and regret as Frank's debt takes on tragic consequences, make it pop and give this tired tale of the drug trade life anew.
Exclusive: Angelika Dallas
-- Roger Moore,
McClatchy-Tribune News Service