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2012 | 89 min | R | 2.39:1



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1 user review

Movie appeal




Theatrical release date

 26 October, 2012
 12 October, 2012

Country of origin

 United Kingdom



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Screenshots from Pusher Blu-ray

Pusher Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, November 8, 2012

The opening of “Pusher” swiftly runs through a visual identification of the main players as though the audience is already familiar with this group of strippers, drug dealers, and goons. And maybe they are, with the film a remake of a 1996 Danish production that launched the career of director Nicolas Winding Refn. However, that’s unlikely, with the introductory greeting perhaps the last true understanding of character in this empty calorie viewing experience. There’s anxiety to spare with this heated story of criminal survival, yet director Luis Prieto treats the experience like a music video, with superfluous visual ornamentation getting in the way of gritty suspense. “Pusher” is a sound and light show that should have its power strip unplugged.

Running the streets of London, Frank (Richard Coyle) distributes a variety of drugs to the locals, aided by dim-wit pal Tony (Bronson Webb). Making a comfortable living while enjoying the perks of the lifestyle, Frank makes room in his life for Flo (a cold, flat Agyness Deyn), a heroin-addicted stripper who blankly watches her boyfriend take care of business. Encountering the possibility of a major score, Frank orders up a brick of cocaine from Serbian crime lord Milo (Zlatko Buric), with promises to pay him back after the deal is settled. When the exchange goes south, Frank ditches the blow to avoid jail time, returning to Milo with empty hands. Working out a monetary settlement, Frank is given a few days to cough up the money, only he doesn’t have it, racing around town to collect from addicts who never had any intention to pay. With time running out, Frank is reduced to desperation to settle up the debt, faced with a devastating threat of bodily harm if he doesn’t come through.

“Pusher” is slick entertainment, with its original Danish DNA reworked into the veins of English brutality, with heavy language and seedy locations employed to generate a slippery feel of Frank’s life-in-motion as he works from one deal to the next. The plot is familiar but promising, observing the drug dealer process all the dead ends that arrive once he begins the process of collection, watching his options slowly run out, leaving him as desperate as his clients for cash. There’s room here for a breathtaking sense of developing horror, finding the noose Milo tosses around Frank’s neck pulled tighter as the movie unfolds, but little of that primal energy is translated to the screen by Prieto. Instead, the helmer goes for a more customary slam-bang of sensory deprivation and glossy visual choices to make his case, and the results just don’t carry enough weight.

The soundtrack by Orbital is employed liberally, creating an electro heartbeat for the film that’s capable but overused, while cinematography by Simon Dennis is equally excessive, trying to find a visual fingerprint for the production through on the nose displays of camera quakes and assorted stylistics. Prieto’s blend of music and moviemaking tends to overwhelm the mission at hand, glossing up a raw story of self-preservation, turning Frank’s mission into a directorial demo reel that’s forcing a strained cinematic language on the audience. Nothing feels natural to “Pusher,” which aims to compete in the British gangster sweepstakes through bass-heavy artificiality, only to lose a handle on all the human suffering. A potentially potent moment of humiliation for Frank as he returns to his mother for a handout is perhaps the effort’s largest disappointment, feeling too out of character for a picture that would rather hit hard and deal with all the emptiness later.

“Pusher” is convincingly violent, while scenes of intimidation with Milo generate true discomfort, confronting a Serbian who’s chillingly hard to read, making the viewer unsure if the gangster is genuinely interested in repayment or enjoying his time ratting Frank’s nerves. If only “Pusher” generated that level of tension throughout the feature instead of consistently avoiding the innate pressure of the premise by slopping an unnecessary glaze of style over the whole endeavor.

Starring: Richard Coyle, Bronson Webb, Paul Kaye, Neil Maskell
Director: Luis Prieto

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