Synopsis: In London, a street dealer’s life spins out of control over the course of one week after he borrows money from his supplier on what’s supposed to be a sure thing.
Some things are better left alone. In a time of endless remakes, re-imaginings, re-interpretations and, as is more often the case, regurgitation this sentiment has never felt more appropriate. Cinematic originality has never felt so precious as it does right now. So having watched Luis Prieto’s reinterpretation of Nicholas Wending Refn’s 1996 seminal cult debut Pusher it irritates me that a talented director would choose to re-hash someone elses work.
Shifting the action from 1996 Copenhagen to 2012 London the story is essentially the same. Frank (Richard Coyle) is a cool headed, low level cocaine dealer who is already in debt to a local supplier for £3k. When he spots a chance to make a big score he convinces his dealer to take a punt and loan him £50k worth of drugs. When it all goes horribly wrong he suddenly finds himself in debt for more than he’ll ever be able to make before they take his knees.
The issue with films where drug dealers/users are central protagonists is it can be difficult to develop them as characters the viewer can empathise with. Without humour or redemption then why feel sorry for someone whose downfall has come and continues to come from criminal means? Coyle’s version of Frank contains neither. In fact there is nothing to like about him as he destroys everything and everyone he touches whilst trying to save his own skin.
Prieto has a talent for visuals though. In contrast to the gritty low budget aesthetics of Refn’s original Prieto’s vision of London’s underworld is bathed in neon and white light like a coked up Christmas tree. Also, taking a queue from Refn’s modern masterpiece, Drive, he uses sonic drama to create tension and atmosphere where the story lacks it. Courtesy of Orbital’s, Pusher has one of the best original soundtrack scores since Hanna.
Conclusion: Looks pretty but it’s hard to care what happens to a guy who spends 90 minutes screwing shitty people over to pay other shitty people money for shitty drugs. Watch the original and put on the Orbital soundtrack.
Cast: Richard Coyle, Agyness Deyn, Bronson Webb, Zlatko Buric, Mem Ferda, Paul Kaye