Less a bastardization than simply a watered-down and superfluous redo, Pusher faithfully mimics Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 Danish crime saga while missing its nasty, grungy spirit. Luis Prieto’s London-set remake substitutes Refn’s heavy metal grime with techno sleaze in retelling the tale of Frank (Richard Coyle), a low-level drug dealer who finds himself in deep debt to kingpin Milo (Zlatko Buric) after a deal goes wrong and he winds up with no coke nor cash. It’s a frenzied descent into direness that Prieto handles with considerable flash and affection for his characters, who here have had their sharp edges sanded smooth. That’s most true of Frank, altered from amoral cretin to a cockier and sympathetic antihero, as well as his best friend, Tony (Bronson Webb), reimagined as a spastic wild man who pales in comparison to Mads Mikkelsen’s original head-tattooed psychopath. That shift doesn’t detract from the full-throttle intensity of Prieto’s direction so much as sap the material of its primal ugliness—except in the case of the outstanding Buric, who, reprising his role from Refn’s film, remains a figure of hilarious, terrifying beastliness.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 24, 2012