Pusher II: With Blood on my Hands review

Considering how many American films are sequels during the summer, including pre-shot trilogies which are filmed immediately following the success of the original, it is ironic that the first time Nicholas Winding Refn’s gritty drug film is seen in America it is being released in the full trilogy. The difference in this trilogy and the many sequels forced from successful American films is the fact that despite the nine years it took to make the three films, they all have the same feeling to them. There is no added or exaggerated violence just because the sequel needs to be larger. Instead Refn has the control and patience to allow the characters to control the script, not the audience. What results is a brilliant reworking of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, set in the modern Danish criminal underworld, with overlapping characters from each film. What enables Refn’s characters come to life is the actors, many of whom were once criminals themselves. This seems all-too-fitting for a reworking of Shakespeare.

            Pusher II follows Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen), the business partner of Frank from the original Pusher film. Tonny has just been released from doing time in jail (the criminal equivalence for going to war), and he finds himself struggling to get on his fathers good side. His father is focused towards his younger son from another mother, who he is struggling to keep custody of, and his only attention given to Tonny is to insult him. Tonny is a screw-up as well as a drug addict, and when he gets caught in a drug deal gone wrong, he finds himself in the company of an even larger screw-up that owes a great deal of money.

            The women seem to take the most abuse in the sequel to the 1996 gritty drug film. While Pusher dealt very simply with debt that can get you killed, the sequel has a very different message. Debt alone doesn’t kill anybody in this film; there are far more emotional and personal reasons for attempted murder in this film. Numerous men attempt to kill, or have killed, the mother of their child. This image continuously appears throughout the film, but at the same time we are never allowed to see any mothers of grown characters. The mother of our hero is dead long before we join him, but we are there to witness the shocking news that his mother has been dead for a year. The statement may in fact be about the fathers attempting to kill off all the mothers in the story, and in the end the money plays a much smaller role than the emotions of the family do. There are endless layers to the story when examining the relationship between the three generations, even with one generation doing no more than crying.

            Pusher II may have seen eight years since the original Pusher film, but the style of the films look as though they were made at the same time. There is a remarkable amount of similarities in the film, including many of the characters, but the script is much bigger than the first one. The way in which the Pusher sequel grows is the most important. Instead of adding more action or violence (both of which the third film has an abundance of), Refn has added more to this script by giving it layers. Each scene seems intently examined before it was filmed, showing clear intentions of a great writer and director.

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