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Hafid Abou El Hakan
Frank is in very deep do-do indeed. But, alas, not in a great film.
The Pusher in question is Frank. Frank buys drugs from Milo, amongst others, cuts the coke and sells it on, keeping a small amount back for a rainy day. Frank's girlfriend is a pole dancer, his best (only?) friend is an idiot and when a deal that said idiot friend talks him into goes awry, Frank is on the way to being 'the human formally known as Frank'. Frank is in very deep do-do indeed.
Sound familiar? It should do; it's been made twice before! Executive producer Nicholas Winding Refn wrote and directed the Danish original in 1996, his feature debut in both roles, and in 2010 there was a Hindi version.
Oh, and he wrote and directed two Danish sequels.
Director Luis Prieto (in his English language debut) and his cast have a lot to live up to but Zlatko Buric, at least, is on familiar territory having played Milo in all but the Hindi version of Pusher.
You'd have thought that between them they'd have got it right fourth time around.
Alas, Winding Refn's involvement in this version, beyond that of executive producer, is limited to a vocal cameo as Amsterdam Bob and the film is left wanting because of it. His absence, not his cameo. Though Winding Refn delivered one of the finest films last year in Drive, Pusher doesn't belong in the same room as that film, let alone on the same shelf.
Pusher is a low budget British film with a small cast and a short running time (89 mins) but that shouldn't count against it because so was Tower Block. However, Tower Block warranted a very solid eight stars while, but for the presence of Richard Coyle, Pusher would fail to limp beyond two. In the opening scenes (and by opening I mean the first 40 minutes or so before I gave up wishing for an improvement) everyone, Coyle aside, seems to be trying so damn hard to impress. Bronson Webb (idiot friend, Tony: "Whatever the opposite of scared is, that's me") is a far cry from the convincing, chilling actor we saw in Eden Lake; Buric clearly wants to leave us in no doubt that he is happy on the surface because he keeps jumping up and down like an excited three year old with a deep voice; and Agyness Deyn (pole dancing Flo) seems unsure of her own ability half the time.
Coyle (Coupling, Going Postal) alone convinces but even he seems less involved in Pusher than we are used to in his other work. He glides along in the film smoothly and, though we never really know what makes him tick, he avoids the block capital, stereotypically villainous character traits. When it is his turn to intimidate, he does so quietly with subtle, determined menace rather than a crowbar. Indeed, when placed in a position of dishing out violence, he is reluctant to be involved.
Pusher is a long way from being a dreadful film but it could be so much better as the original proved. As we departed, I asked my companion his opinion.
"I liked the font." I don't have a problem with liking the font. It's good to have a fellow cinephile who appreciates the small touches, but if that is what is foremost in the viewers' minds when they leave the cinema, the director really needs to ask himself some serious questions.
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