Normally remakes of European movies are made in the US but Nicholas Winding Refn’s 1996 movie Pusher got to the UK and decided to do the double, with two remakes in the past three years. The first was a British Indian take, while this new one brings across a Spanish director for a London-set version of the story.
Richard Coyle plays drug dealer Frank, who has a beautiful girlfriend (Agyness Deyn) and big plans. He’s sent a mule of to get half a kilo of cocaine from Amsterdam. He also thinks he’s scored a sure-fire money-maker with a big deal, but things go wrong when the police interrupt and he’s forced to dump the drugs in a lake so they won’t charge him. However he hasn’t paid for the score yet, giving him only a few days to come up with £55,000. He thinks he can get the cash with his Dutch narcotics, but as the week goes by, things spiral increasingly out of control.
While there’s no doubt this new take on Pusher doesn’t match the wonderful sense of tension created by Nicholas Winding Refn’s original (the Drive director is still involved with this version as a producer), Pusher isn’t a bad watch. That said, the film will largely depend on how you react to Frank. In the special features Richard Coyle suggests he was trying to create a good guy mixed up in a bad world, but there’s no doubt many will find him an irredeemable asshole who deserves everything he gets. He deals drugs, beats his friend senseless despite not knowing whether he was behind the police shakedown or not and ignores his girlfriend’s needs. While there’s a sense of him getting more desperate as the week goes on, it often seems he’s not really being stretched that much further than the violence and immorality he surrounds himself with much of the time.
Top model Agyness Deyn is also a bit of a mixed bag of as Frank’s girlfriend Flo. There are times when her innocence is quite powerful but she’s not the strongest of actresses – not yet at least, as I feel that with a few more acting lessons she could actually be very good. The most entertaining of the characters is Frank’s mate Tony, but sadly he’s side-lined about a third of the way through.
Although most of the characters are pretty unpleasant, the film pulls through on the strength of the performances – Coyle’s Frank may be an ass, but he’s a surprisingly watchable one. The film doesn’t have the propulsive force of Refn’s version, but it still drives forward with enough motion to keep your attention. There are occasional moments when the bass beats and stylised visuals threaten to overwhelm things, but it just stays the right side of style over substance.
It does look good though and that really comes through on the Blu-ray, which shows off the sharp visuals, strobe lighting and stylistic flourishes. There’s also a lot of rather deafening music, which will give your speakers a workout on the DTS HD Master Audio track.
There are only a couple of special features, but they’re worth a watch. There’s a 20 minute ‘making of…’ featurette with some interesting interviews with the cast and crew, along with some red carpet premiere footage and chats with the cast and crew.
Overall Verdict: It’s no match for Nicholas Winding Refn’s original and the characters may be pleasant unpleasant, but Pusher is still a surprisingly fun watch.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac