Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Starring Richard Coyle, Bronson Webb, Agyness Deyn, Paul Kaye, Neil Maskell 18 cert, Movie House, Belfast; Movie House, Coleraine, Derry; Cineworld Dublin, 88 min
IT IS, PERHAPS, a sensible exercise (as it is with all remakes) to wonder how you might react to Luis Prieto’s efficient remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 Danish gangster flick if the original had never existed.
A first response might be, blimey, this bloke has spent a lot of time watching Drive. Courtesy of electro-greybeards Orbital, the soundtrack pounds with the same late-1980s post-rave rhythms. The streets are illuminated by the same damaged neon shades. The viewer constantly feels as if they are plummeting towards a hopeless catastrophe.
Hmmm. The original was grubbier, rougher and a great deal more disturbing. But the current Pusher still remains a cut above the average geezer melodrama.
Richard Coyle, seen recently in Grabbers, delivers an arresting performance as a bad man made much, much worse by the demands of underground capitalism. Used to dealing drugs on a modest scale, Coyle’s Frank foolishly allows himself to be lured into a big score by an old prison chum (Kill List’s alarming Neil Maskell). It all goes badly wrong and he ends up hugely in debt to an east European hood (Zlatko Buric).
The performances vary from first class to forgettable. Buric, reprising his role from the Refn original, has a very unsettling line in psychopathic, back-slapping ingenuousness. Paul Kaye is, thank heavens, barely in the thing. Model Agyness Deyn proves capable of speaking without falling over.
The film is, however, powered by its amphetamine-charged audiovisual style. For the most part, the Spanish director, shooting his first English-language film, pulls off the flash with aplomb. London becomes a space city. The exterior chaos mirrors Franks inner turmoil.
Unhappily, the noise and the throbbing lights ultimately end up overpowering the characters. This Pusher is a pleasingly nasty little jab, but the buzz is simply too shallow and too short lived.
It’s cool. It’s just not Refn cool.