It is hard to care for a character that does not seem to care about himself. Begs the question, was a remake really necessary?
To start out I should state that I have not seen the original cult classic that Pusher is remade from. Therefore, I am not able to answer the age-old question as to whether or not it stands up to or exceeds the original film, which is rarely the case anyways. So this means I must just take this remake at face value and evaluate it accordingly.
Pusher begins with a drug dealer named Frank (Richard Coyle) who gets into heated debate when a client disagrees with how much the cocaine is going to cost him. Right off the bat Frank comes off as a man that you do not want to get into a fight with. This rings true a few scenes later when Frank’s immature younger side-kick Tony (Bronson Webb) gets into a fight of a dance club that Frank has to bail him out of by beating up three guys at once.
Later on that night Tony winds up talking to a man named Marlon who wants to buy a large amount of cocaine from Frank. He is able to get the amount requested from his boss who is a bit apprehensive about getting that amount so soon but does. It is made very clear to Frank that the money must be delivered straight after the deal has been made.
Frank meets up with Marlon just as the two discussed and everything is going smoothly until out of nowhere police cars surround them. Immediately Frank is on the run being chased by two officers. He manages to find a lake to jump into and dumps the cocaine into the water before being captured. Even though he may have escaped the police he now owes his boss a lot of money that he has nothing to show for.
The biggest issue is I had with the film is that it did not feel complete. Characters are brought into the story and leave twice as fast. The plot is simple and while it does not deviate much from it, there are many paths we are taken down that go nowhere. I probably enjoyed the ending the most but even that seemed incomplete. However, that makes sense considering sequels were eventually made of the first one.
Richard Coyle does a good job here as a convincing drug dealer who is both tough and stubborn. His character, however, was majorly flawed. There were many moments in the film where his sense of urgency was completely gone even though his life was on the line. It is hard to care for a character that does not seem to care about himself. Frank’s side-kick Tony was even worse of a character. His only purpose seemed to be for brief comedy relief.
Two areas that Pusher succeeded in the most were the visuals and the soundtrack. The latter is not surprising considering the film was originally done by Nicolas Winding Refn, who also served as an executive producer in this remake. I believe Refn’s Drive had the best soundtrack (despite the rest of the film) of last year. The only caveat with this is that the film relies too heavily on these which results in more dance clubs and drug induced parties than there really needed to be.
Pusher is an arthouse take on an otherwise fairly standard drug lord action film that only occasionally works. Luis Prieto’s Pusher felt like it was aiming for a raw and edgy feel (like I am told Refn’s version was) but it felt almost too polished and put together. It is hard to fault a remake for not taking chances and poor character development but it does beg the question, was a remake really necessary?