Pusher 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.

            Pusher starts off the trilogy with Frank (Kim Bodnia), a small-time drug dealer in Copenhagen during a difficult week. When a drug deal goes wrong and Frank is left without the money or the drugs, he finds himself in debt to the Balkan drug dealer, Milo. As the week progresses, Frank struggles to come up with the money in time, but there is little forgiveness in the world of drugs. Frank bounces back and forth trying to collect the money anywhere he can, all the while abusing a woman who is trying to help him survive.

            Frank’s abuse of a woman who clearly cares for him is the springboard for the entire trilogy, because although the drugs remain constant within the series, it is the women who are the key to the progression of the films, even though this is easily missed for most of Pusher. Pusher is much more focused on how quickly things spiral out of control, and how little trust criminals seem to have for each other. It is a bloody and visceral film which sets up the next two films in the series.

            Writer and director Nicolas Winding Refn made this film instead of attending the well respected National Danish Film School, and it has a gritty realism about it that may have been lost otherwise. As a feature film debut it stands strong, but as a trilogy it is an intricate weaving of characters and brilliantly thought out themes. Pusher must be praised, for even though the films grow more complex as the trilogy continues, Pusher sets the mood and atmosphere perfectly.

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