With the success of director Nicolas Winding Refn’s English language efforts Bronson, Valhalla Rising and most notably Drive, it’s no wonder others have looked to his past work for inspiration.
In this case it’s a British remake of the first in Refn’s Pusher trilogy, with the crime plot transported to London. It follows a week in the life of Frank (Richard Coyle), a drug pusher who finds himself owing a large amount of money to a dangerous drug dealing gangster who threatens to kill him if he doesn’t come up with the money.
It’s a standard crime gangster set-up but director Luis Prieto finds ways of making the film both visually interesting and well paced, with some intense and powerful sequences. The choice of music adds to the on-the-edge atmosphere and infectious style, and some fine performances give the drama weight.
The issues with the film, then, lie with the script which, in spite of the director’s best visual efforts, fails to break past genre conventions. It’s a generic story that doesn’t really go anywhere in the end and while it has a few surprises along the way they are few and far between, certainly not enough for this to stand out amongst the crowd as a complete and realistic tale of criminal desperation.
Part of the reason for that is it’s hard to care about the lead character. In spite of a solid lead performance by Richard Coyle, he’s not much of a sympathetic or relatable character as he keeps digging himself in deeper, pulling stupid and/or greedy moves at every turn that only make things worse. The rest of the characters aren’t any better, only Agyness Deyn’s conflicted girlfriend, Flo, being in any way likable.
For what it is the Pusher remake is solid if unremarkable viewing, its visual style and intensity let down by cliches, unlikable characters and a few too many subplots that go unresolved. Worth a watch? Yes, but only if you don’t mind style over substance filmmaking.