Edinburgh International Film Festival

Pusher (2012)

Starring: Richard Coyle, Bronson Webb, Agyness Deyn, Zlatko Buric, Mem Ferda, Neil , Paul Kaye

Directed by: Luis Prieto

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Richard Coyle as Frank in Pusher

Frank (Richard Coyle) is a drug dealer. Nothing too big – a few K here, a few K there, enough to keep him in Rolexes and flash cars, and to feed his own habit and that of his leggy dancer girlfriend Flo (played by supermodel Agyness Deyn). But (and this is starting to become a theme in my Edinburgh International Film Festival this year) Frank owes money, to overly jovial, larger than life, toothy mobster Milo (Zlatko Buric) – and you just know that beneath that warm, avuncular manner lies an utterly ruthless psychopath.

Directed by Luis Prieto, Pusher is a remake of the Nicolas Refn Winding 1996 movie of the same name. I’ve not seen the original, but, slick, violent, yet thought-provoking, this 21st century version bears all the hallmarks of Refn Winding’s recent hit Drive, as well as echoing the complex dynamics of Bronson, in which, while we may not exactly sympathise with him, we do come to care about the fate of a rather nasty, ammoral central protagonist.

Early on in the film, we suspect that, while happily capable of violence when required, Frank has lines which he’s loathe to cross. But as his situation becomes increasingly desperate, signalled by tiny lurches then jarring fractures in the editing, it appears there’s little he won’t do if pushed, descending into a Michael Mann-style frenzy of gangster outrage, signposted by a switch to Hollywood’s currently beloved blurry brown and blue action movie palette.

Gritty, urban and stylish (but without resorting to annoying Guy Ritchie tricks – no slo-mo bullets here, you’ll be relieved to learn) Pusher provides a voyeuristic glimpse at London’s hedonistic drug/club culture and its population of criminal hard nuts, posing wannabes and middle class tourists.

Held together by a superb performance from its leading man, the film is peppered with a weird and wonderful variety of supporting characters, from Frank’s entertainingly goofy sidekick Tony (Bronson Webb) to the truly chilling Milo. And while it hardly showing us anything radically new, what it does do – tell a gripping story about a desperate man in a very tricky situation – it does with flair. In short, if you liked Drive but found it a bit slow for a film about a getaway driver, you’re gonna love Pusher.

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