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I was a bit confused when I picked up the Blu-ray for Pusher, as text at the top of the case claims it is "From the Director of Drive." That's misleading; Pusher is produced by Nicolas Winding Refn but it's actually a remake of Refn's 1996 Danish film of the same name. This slick, well-acted British remake from Spanish director Luis Prieto feels perfunctory, perhaps because it sticks so closely to its inspiration. Pusher isn't a shot-for-shot remake like the ill advised Psycho experiment, but it's a very similar film. Setting Pusher in Britain inevitably draws comparisons to the recent films of Guy Ritchie, Matthew Vaughn and Jonathan Glazer, and Pusher's drug dealer in peril storyline has been done several times before.
Mid-level drug dealer Frank (Richard Coyle, W./E.) spends too much time tasting his product and clubbing with girlfriend Flo (model Agyness Deyn) and racks up a debt with Serbian drug kingpin Milo (Zlatko BuriÄ‡, who played the same role in the original). Frank plans to settle the debt by selling heroin imported from Amsterdam, but his unexpected arrest and a diluted shipment from Holland throw Frank's life into turmoil. Pusher again stresses the dangers of getting high on one's own supply, and Frank descends into a world of violence that he had up until that point avoided.
Prieto, who previously directed several Italian dramas, shoots London like a nonstop rave, and the characteristically grey city is awash in neon lights, crowded clubs and rain-soaked streets. Frank's problems begin on a Monday, and by the following weekend he is a changed man - not necessarily for the better. Frank's substance-abuse problems are compounded by rowdy friend Tony (Bronson Webb, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), who encourages Frank's reckless and ineffective collection of debts owed from buyers. That friendship turns toxic as Frank grows increasingly desperate, and his disgust also moves outward to Flo, a stripper with a secret heroin addiction, who Frank accuses of being a prostitute.
At a scant 89 minutes, Pusher doesn't overstay its welcome, but the film is never especially compelling. Pusher moves from one event to the next like a music video with characters that look pretty but do little else. The thumping score from British band Orbital is enjoyable but makes it easy to detach from the images on screen altogether and drift away into an electronic haze. Webb does command the screen with a primal energy, but Frank is not especially charismatic, which is either the fault of the actor, the script, or a combination of the two. Deyn is an impressive amateur actress, and her crystal-clear blue eyes sell several emotional scenes. Flo is a catalyst for the film's somewhat abrupt ending, the brevity and implications of which I quite enjoyed. Pusher is fine entertainment, but is too slick and pedestrian to make much of an impact.
Anchor Bay's 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is excellent, and Pusher appears every bit as detailed and colorful as the filmmakers intended. Detail is fantastic, and nearly every shot unspools with sparkling clarity. Close-ups reveal intimate facial details, from the stubble on Frank's chin to the tears on Flo's cheeks, and the occasional wide shots are always crisp and clean. The film's vibrant neon colors are perfectly saturated, and skin tones remain accurate despite the frequent use of filters and unnatural lighting. Black levels are decent if a bit purple at times, and I noticed some minor aliasing and noise during a few nighttime scenes. Neither edge halos nor artificially sharpened faces makes an appearance.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is also strong, with excellent separation between dialogue, effects and the largely electronic score. The soundtrack's clarity and range are both excellent, and dialogue is consistently clear whether delivered from the front speakers or directionally from the surround speakers. Ambient and action effects are pronounced and make good use of the surround speakers and subwoofer. Raindrops and crowd noise surround the viewer, and gunshots pop from around the sound field. The pounding score is rich and impressive, and the track is an excellent simulation for a night at a London club. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are also available.
The filmmakers and cast provide interviews about the project in The Making of Pusher (18:16/HD), which also includes some interesting behind-the-scenes footage. In the Premiere Q&A with the Director, Producer and Cast (12:15/HD), the actors discuss their characters and Prieto and Refn discuss their involvement with the project.
This 2012 British remake of Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn's 1996 film Pusher tells the familiar story of a drug dealer on a downward spiral. Spanish director Luis Prieto crafts a slick, quickly paced film that at times feels more like a music video than dramatic art. Richard Coyle leads the cast as mid-level London dealer Frank, who finds himself in debt to a Serbian drug lord after several costly missteps. Pusher is too slick for its own good, which lessens its impact and replay value. Rent It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.