Frank (Richard Coyle) is making a comfortable living selling class A’s on the London club scene. However, he soon grows weary of the small-time and begins to engineer deals that could see his stock rise significantly. He is determined to become more than a pawn in the drug pushers cut throat game of chess but soon finds that he needs to overcome a few dangerous obstacles first. The path to hefty financial gain is littered with pitfalls and if Frank doesn’t play it right his meteoric rise will be very short lived…
Pusher is a direct remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 cult classic of the same name, only this time it gets the East-End treatment. First time director Luis Prieto brings plenty of panache to the production only to see it fall painfully short in other, more important areas. Stylistically Pusher is brilliant, Preito uses vivid shades of purple and yellow to give it a fashionable aesthetic and Orbital’s hypnotic score, quite clearly inspired by Refn’s Drive, provides a nice recurrent beat to head-bob to. The camera work also gets the nod as it finds a nice balance between style and simplicity. It is flat yet not entirely dull and the pacing grabs at us, ensuring we retain some sort of focus for the whole production. However, for a film to keep its head above the water in this overcooked genre it needs to have guts, and this is where Pusher proves to be lacking the goods.
From the get-go the film offers a cliché riddled portray of East- End gangsterism, where obscenity and stereotypes are used as lazy substitutes for tight scripts and originality. Frank’s right hand man Tony (Bronson Webb) embodies this particular notion and he ensures the opening 10 minutes are littered by a plethora of swear words. Of course, foul mouth-ery and films of this nature go hand in hand, but on this particular occasion it’s nothing short of cringe inducing. The film continues to display a stomach churning sense of juvenility throughout, with the appearance of Tony’s genitalia on Facebook providing the film’s nadir. You’d be excused for thinking you were watching an episode of Skins. Can you imagine that happening to Ray Winstone or Bob Hoskins? No, me neither.
The main antagonists, who of course rein from Eastern Europe, are a border line parody act; with Zlatko Buric’s greasy haired drugs boss handing out baking tips at one point. Their character profiles look like they were stolen from a Grand Theft Auto game. One of the few characters whose depth does seem to go beyond face value is the ambiguous escort Flo (Deyn) who emanates a profound sense of being lost that is engrossing to watch.
Ultimately, Pusher’s substance does not match its style and there are very few moments that prove unpredictable and engaging. One particular sequence that does provide a gritty juxtaposition to the films shiny exterior involves a desperate old drug addict and a shotgun. However, moments like this are far and few between. After some steady pacing throughout the ending also feels rushed, with its last ditch attempt at surprising us falling painfully short. By the end of it all Frank feels more like Derek Trotter than Tony Montana.
Pusher is another below-par addition to the saturated English Crime genre that lacks Layer Cake’s inherent coolness and Sexy Beast’s character depth. Whilst Pusher can at times be visually arresting, its content is about as exciting as a ham sandwich.