Closely resembling the Danish original, the UK version of Pusher is an impressive creation that has similarly engaging characters and taut, frenetic action. Based on executive producer Nicolas Winding Refn’s original trilogy — one that launched the Drive director’s career — this version employs a seamless script that works surprisingly well. Director Luis Prieto conjures creative visual moments that highlight some of the simpler elements and bolstering this aspect is the sound design and score, including touches that one wouldn’t expect to stand out.
Frank (Richard Coyle) and his buddy Tony (Bronson Webb) are living the fast life of drugs, money and women. His buddy isn’t the most subtle person and is overbearing when it comes to women, but because he is slender and innocent no one really takes him seriously. Frank, meanwhile, has a steady girlfriend named Flo (played by newcomer Agyness Deyn), and debts to be paid. When his buddy sets up a huge drug deal, he sees it as a way to settle his score and make out like a bandit at the same time. The bad vibes are ignored, and the deal goes terribly wrong. Now owing more than a kilo worth of cocaine, Frank has some problems and it will take a clear head to get out alive.
Set in England instead of Copenhagen, Prieto seems intent to do more than a straight rehash without reworking the entire structure — why break what isn’t broken? One may jump to calling this a shortfall, but instead he adds to the narrative by fleshing out Flo’s character, updating the imagery, and finding inventive ways to use sound design and cinematography to add brief, modern flourishes.
Although Prieto has taken on the thankless role of remaking a Danish cult film, he has succeeded in bringing the story to a new audience. Whether the end result is better or worse than Refn’s original is a difficult, conclusive statement to make, but judged on it’s own, Pusher replicates a similar energy. The story takes many twists and turns, and we know certain characters are doomed from the outset, but Pusher may be worth watching again for fans of the original and certainly not a bad place for newcomers to begin.
After screening at Fantastic Fest, Pusher hits VOD Friday, September 28th and is in theaters on October 26th.