‘Pusher’ (2012) Review

4.5/10

Film Pulse Score

'Pusher' (2012) Review 2
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Release Date: October 26, 2012 (Limited)
Current Showing via OnDemand Platforms
Director: Luis Prieto
MPAA Rating:  R
Film Pulse Score: 4.5/10

For some reason, some truly phenomenal films are remade not long after their releases, mostly by American studios.  This has happened with a few Asian horror flicks – to little success – and then some remarkable remakes such as the vampiric Let Me In which stayed true to the emotional power of the extraordinary Swedish original Let the Right One In and David Fincher’s incredible recreation of the brilliant Swedish film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Here, a British director has remade Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn’s amazing 1996 film Pusher.  Luis Prieto has remade the drug-dealer genre film with Refn’s blessing and with Refn acting as an executive producer.  While Prieto’s film is solid in places, it pales in comparison to the excellence of Refn’s original Danish movie.  So, if you have seen Pusher (1996), then you should skip the 2012 version.  If you have not seen the original, then you might enjoy the set-in-England version made by Prieto.  However, I suggest seeing the original and bypassing the current film.

Pusher reveals a week in the life of a low-level drug dealer and what a hellish week it is.  It starts out routinely enough with Frank (Brendan Coyle) hanging out with his less-than-intelligent buddy, Tony (Bronson Webb).  Frank owes quite a bit of money to his supplier, Milo (Zlatko Buric).  Frank is going to pay Milo back once a deal in Amsterdam is completed with the help of a drug mule, Danaka (Daisy Lewis).  In the meantime, he talks Milo into giving him a sizeable amount of drugs to sell to an old acquaintance for some quick money.  Unfortunately, the deal does not go as planned and Frank ends up dumping the drugs in a lake when cornered by the police.  When the police convince Frank that Tony gave him away, Frank beats up his best friend in a violent episode in which he nearly kills his once best friend.

Added into the mix is Frank’s main squeeze, Flo (Agyness Deyn) – an exotic dancer and drug user, who we are sure loves Frank though the feelings may or may not be mutual.  Flo’s importance is not really explored until the film’s last shot which leaves things ambiguous at best and disappointing at worst.

The Amsterdam deal falls through, and Frank does everything he can think of to get Milo’s money in the few days Milo’s given him to get the money together.  Making matters worse are Milo’s henchmen who follow Frank around trying to get Milo’s money all the quicker.  There is a poignant scene when Frank visits his mother to see if she has the tens of thousands of pounds he owes Milo.  Of course, she has nowhere near that money, even though one gets the impression that she would give Frank the money if she had it.  I wish there was more between Frank and his mother, but it is still an effective scene in an otherwise ineffective film.

What happens to Frank is left open to the viewer.  Refn’s original was followed up by two sequels which let us know that Frank successfully skipped town or country when his week ran out.  But we are left wondering what will happen to Frank with Prieto’s film ends.  Because I had the great pleasure of seeing Refn’s original film, my viewing of the remake was far from objective as I constantly compared to the two in my mind.  I may have rated this week-in-the-life-of-a-drug-dealer film higher had I not seen the original, but not much higher than I have rated it here.  It did not resonate with me emotionally or mentally, though I appreciate the film’s attempt to show the mundane life of a drug dealer.  I just could not and cannot get over the fact that this is a second-rate copy of a terrifically wrought and powerfully produced original.  As I said, skip this film and watch Refn’s Pusher instead; you’ll be glad you did.