Before being snubbed at the Academy Awards last year for “Drive” and before personal favorite “Bronson,” Nicholas Winding Refn wrote and directed the “Pusher” trilogy. While they’re not exactly essential viewing for Refn’s best known works, the films still bring Refn’s gritty and super-violent style to the drug dealing world. Seeing how fast a drug dealer can fall from grace is perhaps the best part of the original film. The question arises of whether or not “Pusher” really needed a remake or not, especially since a Hindi remake is also floating around from 2010.
The 2012 version of “Pusher” is set in London and is told over the span of a week. A drug dealer named Frank (Richard Coyle) has a big deal coming up that will surely outshine his usual middle class clients. He pals around with Tony (Bronson Webb), a guy who always has sex on the brain and who tends to have a different set of eyes for potential meetings with Frank; which leads to Frank needing a large amount of cocaine for a client by the next day. He talks to his supplier Milo (Zlatko Buric), who he already owes $3,000. The deal goes south when he’s busted by the cops and Frank finds himself owing Milo over $55,000. As Frank’s leads all lead him right back to where he started and with his life on the line, his impending fate becomes abundantly clear.
Aside from the shift from being Danish to British, there isn’t much of a difference between this “Pusher” and the original. It’s in English, which will be nice for those who don’t like reading subtitles but all of the main story points are still the same. The absence of Mads Mikkelsen as Tony is a bit of a letdown, but Bronson Webb still offers the same type of female obsessed dialogue so it probably won’t be felt by those who have no idea who Mikkelsen is or who haven’t seen the original film.
Zlatko Buric reprises his role as Milo, which is a nice throwback for fans of Refn’s version of the film. Seeing Neil Maskell from “Kill List” make an appearance was a highlight as well. The biggest differences between this version and the original are the way certain parts of the film are edited. Frank has a few freak outs where the stress of everything going wrong really gets to him. The image begins to go out of focus and becomes staticky and shaky; similar to the final sequence in “Altered States.”
The most intense moments of the film stick out the most thanks to how they’re edited or the strong content involved. There’s the pet shop sequence where Frank comes to collect some money he’s owed which is memorable because of how it ends while Frank’s break down at Fitz’s (Paul Kaye) party shows just how close to insanity Frank has become. The music in the film really isn’t all that impressive as it’s mostly just club and dance music that all sounds the same, but there’s this one really brief piano piece during Fitz’s party that is just brilliant. It’s just a shame that it only lasts about 45 seconds.
The performances are strong in “Pusher” as Richard Coyle does an impeccable job portraying intensity, extreme duress, and a man willing to do whatever it takes just to live another day while Zlatko Buric is just as menacing in English as he is in Danish. Camera tricks and editing techniques aside, “Pusher” is mostly exactly the same as the original film. Remember how “Let Me In” at least had a few extra scenes compared to “Let the Right One In?” This doesn’t even have that. “Pusher” isn’t exactly a waste of time, but is completely unnecessary when you can just visit the original film and its two sequels. “Pusher” is disposable for Refn fans that have followed his work from the beginning, but is more worthwhile for new viewers since they don’t know what they’re in for.