Pusher III: I’m the Angel of Death 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.

            The final film in the Pusher trilogy follows restaurant owner Milo, who sells drugs out of his restaurant, and takes place in a single day. Milo is on his fifth day clean of drugs, but it is also his daughter Milena’s twenty-fifth birthday for which he has to make a feast, so the stress begins to pile up. To make matters worse, a shipment of ecstasy comes in instead of heroin. As Milo deals with his daughter’s birthday and a drug deal gone wrong, he finds himself in the pocket of some dangerous men, and has to find a way out. As with each Pusher film, the main character is a flawed human being, and this flaw is the downfall, as it was in all of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Milo is a cheap man, which is what gets him into trouble many times in the film, from buying cheap chicken that makes people sick to making bad business decisions, and in the end this gets him into trouble on this fateful day.          

            Pusher III seems to be making up for the slightly misogynistic tone of the first two Pusher films by making the strongest character Milo’s daughter, a woman who will not take no for an answer. She gets what she wants and many people seem to fear her far more than her father. The lead character, Milo, is also the most mature lead that the Pusher series has seen. Although each film in the series has a different lead, each with a fate somewhat unknown by the end of the film, the theme continues on to the next film. The series shows a natural progression in its themes. Pusher shows Frank abuse a woman until he sees his downfall. In Pusher II Tonny has an unbelievable bitterness towards women, but by the end of the film he has matured enough to have the fatherly instinct to save his child from harm. Pusher III shows Milo on the day of his daughter’s twenty-fifth birthday, and she has been made the center of his life, with the mother once again missing. Nearly every action Milo makes seems motivated by his fatherly instincts, and situations quickly become deadly because of it as well.

            The interesting thing about Milo in comparison to the past two Pusher protagonists is the fact that he doesn’t run. At the end of the first two Pusher film both Frank and Tonny are forced to run, but Milo never even considers it as an option with his daughter in his life. He is willing to grovel and do whatever is necessary until he gets himself into even more trouble. Even then, he calls up on a favor so that he can figure a solution out instead of running. The simple and eerily serene final scene shows a remarkable change from the frantic last minutes of the first two films. Milo is a criminal, just like the others, but he is also much more calculated and intelligent than the other two.

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