Pusher (2012) – Review

Pusher (2012) – Review

Film Review by FilmFellaHenry – 5/10

In 1996, Nicolas Winding Refn directed Pusher: a gritty Danish indie flick that charted the misfortunes of a drug pusher following a deal gone wrong. While the story was not particularly original, Pusher was still a relevant part of the late ’90’s gangster film trend, ranking with other contemporaries such as Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Dobermann. What really made Pusher work was Refn’s proven directorial style that, as with the recent Drive, made the film seem greater than the sum of its parts.

16 years later and Pusher (2012) is once more hitting cinema screens in a remake from director Luis Prieto. The story is almost identical to Refn’s version: Frank (Richard Coyle) and sidekick Tony (Bronson Webb) find themselves in debt to local mob boss Milo (Zlatko Buric) after a heroin deal goes pear-shaped. Desperate to repay Milo before his fragile patience wears out, Frank embarks on a frantic mission to earn some cash, burning through friends and associates on his inevitable decline.

The initial decision to remake Pusher (1996) strikes me as flawed. Accepting that the original story was not particularly brilliant and Luis Prieto still used it anyway, I can only assume he believed he could direct the film in either a better or a substantially different way than Nicolas Refn. And predictably, he has done neither.

The first notable sign that Pusher (2012) is on a losing streak surrounds the characters and the troubled casting choice. Richard Coyle is a lukewarm generic protagonist, offering nothing more than the bare bones of a low rent dealer, whose character you can pretty much sum up in the first ten minutes. At least Kim Bodina (who played Frank in the original) exuded a sense of guarded mystery, where you could never quite get a handle on who he was; Coyle is conversely an open book, stumbling over the few attempts at depth and emotion. Similarly, Bronson Webb is a pale substitute for Mads Mikkelsen’s Tonny in Refn’s version, spouting his lines like a stereotypical cockney geezer, with all the acting proficiency of an over-zealous drama under-grad. It doesn’t help that their dialogue is both stilted and uninspired; though I guess that’s what happens when a producer (Matthew Read) decides to change careers and have a pop at screenplays.

Visually, Pusher (2012) is nothing new. The frequent club scenes look ok, but the rest is all steadicam midshots and close ups, bland lighting and non-descript art direction. In other words, unadventurous. The score fares better with Orbital providing their own brand of electronica, yet even this element fails to become memorable. And as previously noted, the narrative epitomises the term ‘mediocre’.

The only way Pusher (2012) could ever have worked, would have been to either completely revamp the story, or direct it in such an alternative style so as to be incomparable to Refn’s version. Sadly, what we actually have is another pointless remake that only proves Luis Prieto is not the auteur he perhaps thought he was. My advice is to skip this and watch the original instead.

About filmfellahenry
Film reviewer, script writer and occasional painter. Fan of Lumet, Aronofsky and Kubrick, with a good measure of early John Carpenter thrown in. Particularly like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror and fantasy film genres.

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