There’s nothing more amazing then when a talented director takes on a not so original subject and elevates it with style. The ability to breathe life into a tired tale is a special skill reserved for only a few cinematic auteurs with vision. Back in 1996, Danish Director Nicolas Winding Refn showed such ability with his finely tuned take on a drug dealing man on the run entitled "Pusher." It presented a unique visual palate and a palpable tension worthy of some of the finest masters of the genre – Refn was a filmmaking force to be reckoned with. A new but very familiar version of that film also called "Pusher" now appears and it’s of all things a British remake. So how is the standard story now in the hands of someone who isn’t Refn? Take a wild guess.
Frank is a small time drug dealer and a man who is looking for a big score. He finally finds a buyer who is interested in a large purchase, but being that it’s well beyond his means Frank heads to a powerful Serbian drug lord named Milo for some assistance. Problem is the deal goes south and Milo wants either the money or his drugs back. So with the drugs long gone into the local pond, Frank is forced to go on a week long excursion to get the money he owes by any and all means necessary.
Again, the premise here is not original. (And I’m not just talking about being the same as Refn’s!) We’ve seen similar stories of woe, met desperate characters like Frank and been witness to such familiar plights many times over. What made the original "Pusher" notable at all was simply Refn - hands down. His askew vision of a man on a downward spiral, his ability to ratchet up the tension with such fervor and skill and ultimately his innovative visual style all but announced there was a skilled craftsman in the house. This version is directed by someone named Luis Prieto and let me tell you, he’s no Refn. Cookie cutter and totally uninspired, Prieto’s "Pusher" is safe harbor for generic visuals, moral characters easier to digest and an anxiety level that moves at a snails pace. Meaning there’s nothing particularly special about the look of the film, lead man Frank seems to be more of a good guy in a bad situation (isn’t he a drug dealer?!) and there’s about as much tension here as there was between dinner chaps Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn in "My Dinner With Andre."
I guess I’m confused why Refn would even put his name on this thing as an Executive Producer and fool his fans into thinking their re-entering a world of all things Refn. That place is filled with unknown possibilities and wondrous darkness where every minute could be your last. Trying to pass off this version as anything but a faded carbon copy is an insult indeed. It reminds me of when coke tried to replace the already admired original with an inferior and unneeded update – ain’t nothing like the real thing.