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June 28, 2013

Movie Review: Pusher (2012, Blu-ray)

Review By: Rob Sibley

Spanish filmmaker Luis Prieto had a tall order to fill with Pusher. Which is a British remake of the 1996 Danish Nicolas Winding Refn film of the same name. I was highly skeptical about this picture, considering the the original Pusher is a highly regarded film and personally one of my favorite Refn films. Starting out with the biggest differences between the two is the original Pusher took place in the deep dark belly of the Danish underworld. While the remake is much more glitzy and glamorous, taking place in many high end techno blasting night clubs. It ditches the grit for a more stylized approach which actually works for the film. The music is another huge part of the films success, composed by British dance band “Orbital”. The techno tracks add a nice kinetic feeling to the film and Prieto keeps the film moving at a nice frantic pace.

Pusher tells the story of Frank (Richard Coyle) he's a small time coke dealer living in London. He's living the good life with his stripper girlfriend Flo (Agyness Deyn) and his sexually hopeless buddy Tony (Bronson Webb). One day out of the clear blue Frank is contacted by an old cellmate Marlon (Neil Maskell, Kill List). Marlon is looking for a good amount of coke, around forty five thousand worth. Frank meets up with a contact of his, Milo (Zlatko Burić) a ruthless Serbian gangster. The deal is simple, Milo will loan the 48K worth of gear to Frank. Frank will make the deal with Milo and bring the money back. Paying Milo back and taking care of his debt of 3 grand that he already owes Milo.

Of coarse things go horribly wrong for dear Frank. The deal seems to be going off without a hitch until Frank is swarmed by cops. He books it and ends up standing knee deep in a river with the cops approaching him. What's the man to do? He dumps the drugs into the water, destroying any and all evidence. He's arrested but not booked because he didn't have any drugs on him. He's let go but the man is facing a bigger problem. He doesn't have the money or the drugs for Milo. Obviously Milo isn't amused by this and doesn't believe that Frank was arrested. This is where the film really kicks into overdrive as Frank will do anything to get Milo his money back... otherwise he'll end up in a body bag.

As mentioned before I was highly skeptical about this remake. To I thought “Oh great, they are taking one of the best Danish crime films ever made and turn it into your typical East End gangster dreck.”. Happily this isn't the case at all with this film. Sure the flick still follows the original pretty closely. It's not a shot for shot remake like say the god-awful Psycho remake. But all the main connective tissue of the original film are here and all the major set pieces are carried over as well. One carry over from the original Refn film is actor Zlatko Burić. Who absolutely steals everyone of his scenes as the Serb gangster who when not doing various nefarious activity's actually enjoys cooking (Yes, he's an awful cook.) One of the funniest scenes is were Milo insists Frank try one of his pastries, the look on Franks face says it all. Milo is the sort of character who's as happy go lucky as they come. He'll greet you with a big smile and a hug and a warm welcome. But if you get on his bad side he has no problem with torturing you and laying down plastic and pulling out the carving knives.

Richard Coyle as Frank was a fantastic casting choice. In the UK Coyle is very known for the show “Coupling”. Think of that as the British version of Friends, so UK audiences had a tough time initially buying him in the role of a tough guy. Luckily for most of us Americans we never saw that side of Coyle. You'll recognize him from Renny Harlin's (underrated) Five Days Of War. Coyle was also one of the stars of Outpost II. So horror fans might recognize the dude as he has an Irish horror/comedy creature feature “Grabbers” hitting the states soon.

Coyle is very believable as the classic guy in over his head scenario. His acting chops let him go from a tough intimidating presence to a more vulnerable person. The supporting cast is equally excellent, Bronson Webb as Frank's friend Tony is a scene stealer. Tony's life is all about coke and talking about getting with women, yet he's hopeless when dealing with the opposite sex. But his happy go lucky attitude makes sure he never get's down on himself. Interestingly enough in the original Refn film the character of Tony was played by the one and only Mads Mikkelsen! Who's finally enjoying some much deserved respect and fame in America with “Hannibal”.

Agyness Deyn is a revelation in her role of Flo. Agyness was mainly known as a super model in the UK. Usually the transition from super model to actress isn't effective, but Agyness kills the role. Flo could have easily have been the typical “hooker with a heart of gold” character that we've seen to death. But Agyness plays her character with a lot of class and dignity.

Overall this is a highly enjoyable British crime flick, it boasts superior production values and performances then your typical Brit crime flick of late.

Anchor Bay brings Pusher to Blu-ray in a glorious 1080P widescreen transfer, presented in it's original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The transfer here is nearly perfect and this Blu-ray would be an excellent choice if you were looking to show off your home entertainment center. It's as reference quality as you can get on Blu-ray. Outstanding. 

The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is a fantastic well balanced track.  
The extra's are a tad slim, but they are slightly interesting. First up is “The Making Of Pusher”, which is presented in HD and runs a tad over 18 minutes. It's a bit better then your standard EPK, they do a lot of praising but you can see all the actors are excited to be part of the film.

Last up is “Premiere Q & A with the Director, Producer & Cast”, this little panel Q&A runs about 12 minutes. Everyone is pretty much accounted for Agyness, Coyle, Prieto and even exec producer Nicolas Winding Refn! It's a pretty interesting Q & A which I actually wish was longer.

All and all I had a BLAST with Pusher! It's easily one of the best British crime films of the last few years. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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