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Pusher (2012) Blu-ray Review

Pusher (2012) movie poster Pusher

US Theatrical Release: October 26, 2012 / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Luis Prieto / Writers: Matthew Read (screenplay); Nicolas Winding Refn, Jens Dahl (original screenplay Pusher)

Cast: Richard Coyle (Frank), Bronson Webb (Tony Cartwright), Agyness Deyn (Flo), Mem Ferda (Hakan), Paul Kaye (Fitz), Zlatko Buric (Milo), Disy Lewis (Danaka), Neil Maskell (Marlon), Bill Thomas (Jack), Ray Callaghan (Maurice), Adam Foster (Zack), Tracy Green (Cindy), James Hamilton (Rami), Leila Hoffman (Kind Old Lady), Joanna Hole (Frank's Mum), Nicolas Winding Refn (Dutch Bob)

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Pusher bills itself as being from the director of Drive, but that is somewhat disingenuous.
Nicolas Winding Refn, who won much critical acclaim for that stylish 2011 Ryan Gosling crime drama, merely serves as an executive producer and writer by extension. This 2012 Pusher is a British remake of Refn's first film, a 1996 Danish blockbuster that spawned two sequels in the middle of last decade, Refn's last films to date performed in his native tongue. The filmmaker's input into this version seems minimal, which would explain the limited star power and practically non-existent theatrical release from The Weinstein Company's niche, multi-platform RADiUS-TWC label.

Adapted by veteran British television producer Matthew Read, who apparently executive-produces Refn's upcoming RADiUS-distributed, Gosling-starring Only God Forgives, 2012's Pusher marks the English language debut for Spanish director Luis Prieto. It spends a tumultous week in the life of Frank (Richard Coyle), a tough drug dealer in London's East End.

Indebited drug dealer Frank (Richard Coyle) digs up a secret stash of cash in the 2012 English remake of "Pusher."

Frank seizes an opportunity to sell a kilo of coke in a hurry to a new acquaintance. He gets his product from a Turkish mobster named Milo (Zlatko Buric, reprising his role from each film in Refn's original trilogy), to whom he is already in debt, and expects to turn right around and pay him back. However, the transaction is busted by police and thinking quickly, Frank disposes of the drugs in a lake to eliminate the evidence and minimize his charge.

He denies everything and is soon out free, but Milo and his enforcer Hakan (Mem Ferda) are eager for Frank to settle his debt, which has now grown to $55,000. Buying himself a little time, Frank tries to collect debts he himself is owed and even asks for the assistance of everyone from his heroin addict exotic dancer girlfriend Flo (Agyness Deyn) to his estranged mother (Joanna Hole). Milo and Hakan's patience quickly begins to dwindle, while Frank, still far from his target, resorts to armed robbery.

Even only knowing his most recent and famous work, it's easy to see Refn's influence on this film. This Pusher remake shares themes and settings with Drive. It is similarly heavy on style, from blaring electronic music to occasionally frantic editing to neon colors, flickering flourescent light, and bursts of violence. All of that creates a distinctive and unusual atmosphere for this slightly glamorized underworld. Where Drive seemed original and instantly iconic, though, Pusher feels hollow and unpleasant.

Mobster Milo (Zlatko Buric) is ready to collect the thousands that Frank owes him. Heroin-addled girlfriend Flo (Agyness Deyn) is distant and of little help to Frank.

It is difficult to muster sympathy for anyone here, as all characters are detestable to varying degrees. Gosling's laconic, silver scorpion jacketed lead may have done regrettable things (especially in that elevator), but he was easy to root for, proving to be a real human being and a real hero.
By contrast, the bag-eyed, spottily-bearded Frank, who looks like a cross between Andy Serkis and Simon Pegg, is a lowlife with seemingly nothing going on beyond using, dealing, and smuggling drugs. He may not be the seediest or least likable character on hand (Bronson Webb as loudmouth partner Tony has him beat by a kilometer mile). But Frank seems to deserve all the trouble coming his way, no matter how unsettlingly doled out it may be.

Pusher tries to distract us from recognizing its unpleasantness by every so often cranking up dance music in an effort to get your toe tapping and head bobbing. You may succumb to those temptations momentarily, but it doesn't take long to remember you're surrounded by impulsive degenerates you have no reason to care for. Even tackled by seasoned director Prieto, this remake (the second in three years, following a 2010 Hindi version) feels like a shallow novice effort whose technical promise is overshadowed by its apathetic storytelling.

After barely playing in select US theaters, Pusher hits DVD and Blu-ray at the end of this month from Weinstein home video partner Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Pusher (2012) Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Extras Subtitled in English; Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($24.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Pusher looks sharp in the Blu-ray's clean and clear 2.40:1 presentation. One of the film's greatest strengths, the visuals leave little to be desired. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is lively and boisterous, probably to a fault. Bursts of club music are visceral but obnoxious and will probably have you diving for the remote.

In front of a pink Richard Coyle, Bronson Webb discusses his despicable sidekick Tony in "The Making of 'Pusher.'" Agyness Deyn, Richard Coyle, director Luis Prieto, and executive producer Nicolas Winding Refn answer a moderator's questions at a premiere screening.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Pusher is joined by two featurettes.

"The Making of Pusher" (18:16, HD) collects behind-the-scenes footage and remarks from director Luis Prieto, his cast members, and Nicolas Winding Refn.
Passing praise around, they talk about the premise, the characters,

"Premiere Q & A with the Director, Producer and Cast" (12:15, SD) gathers pre-screening comments from Refn, Prieto, actors Agyness Deyn and Richard Coyle, and half of the composer duo Orbital. Refn explains helping only at the start and discusses his original version, half of Orbital weighs in on the score, and Prieto and his stars discuss filming in real clubs and being accepted by London's Turkish community.

The disc opens with menu-inaccessible HD trailers for Erased, The Details, and "Rectify." Pusher's own trailer is not included.

The menu simply sets silent full-sized clips from the film to a looped excerpt of Orbital's score. The disc does not support bookmarks or resuming, which is especially annoying since returning to the menu takes more time and effort than it should.

The standard keepcase is not joined by a slipcover or reverse side artwork, but it does kindly include an insert offering $2 off the DVD and Blu-ray editions of Killing Them Softly, One in the Chamber, Seeking Justice, and The Son of No One.

Milo's right-hand man Hakan (Mem Ferda) finds it easy to get serious and tough with those with outstanding debts. This closing shot of a visibly concerned Frank (Richard Coyle) leaves you to guess what happens next in "Pusher."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Pusher gives us a hint of how Nicolas Winding Refn's career began, but one gets the sense that this English language version is inferior to Refn's actual sequel-spawning Danish debut. Luis Prieto's remake is heavy on style and light on substance, being easy to hate even when it uses some genuine craft to create tension. While you generally hate to see a small movie get overlooked, this one's obscurity is hard to lament.

Anchor Bay's Blu-ray sports a nice feature presentation if you're okay with extreme volume peaks. The half-hour worth of featurettes is good company, but the better authoring and the movie's trailer would have easily improved this disc.

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Reviewed June 10, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 RaDiUS-TWC, Gaumont, Vertigo Films, Embargo Films, Exponential Media,
and 2013 Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.