Luis Prieto’s self-consciously cool English-language remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s coruscating 1996 thriller has style in abundance.
Transplanted from the streets of Copenhagen to present-day London, Pusher imagines the capital as a rat-run of neon-lit nightclubs, smoke-filled house parties and swanky apartments, where punters pay thousands in cash for their next hit.
The beautiful squalor is set to a pulsating soundtrack by electronic dance duo Orbital, which provides the film with frenetic bursts of pace and energy.
What Prieto’s version lacks is a strong emotional connection to the godforsaken anti-hero as he careens from disaster to despair, discovering that the drugs he peddles don’t work, they make everything far worse.
We feel no concern as the weight of the world comes crashing down upon him.
He gambles big, loses bigger and deserves to suffer the grim consequences.
Party boy and drug dealer Frank (Richard Coyle) is a big fish in the small pond of east London.
He seems to have it all - bundles of cash, a beautiful pole-dancing girlfriend called Flo (Agyness Deyn) and free entry to all the best clubs in town.
However, like all low levels criminals, Frank is only as good as his last deal and in order to increase his wealth, he has to borrow heavily from men who don’t take kindly to late repayments.
So it comes to pass that Frank borrows thousands from drug lord Milo (Zlatko Buric) to finance an ill-fated get-rich scheme involving former prison mate Marlon (Neil Maskell).
“I’m a boomerang - I come straight back,” Frank promises Milo, who threatens to unleash henchman Hakan (Mem Ferda) if the dealer isn’t true to his word.
The scam goes awry and Frank is caught by the police, shortly after he dumps the drugs in a pond.
As Milo’s original loan gains interest, Frank prowls London like a wounded animal, pressurising best friend Tony (Bronson Webb), girlfriend Flo and rich client Fitz (Paul Kaye) to help settle the debt.
Eventually Milo loses patience.
“If you don’t come by tomorrow, you won’t be able to walk again,” he warns and all of Frank’s pent-up frustration and rages explodes with bloody consequences.
Bookmarked into daily chapters, Pusher paints Frank’s soulless existence in lurid colours, complimented by Kim Gaster’s snappy editing and some trippy visuals.
Coyle lacks roguish charm in initial scenes but glistens with desperation as Frank’s plight becomes increasingly bleak, and supermodel Deyn impresses, demonstrating emotional depth in her few scenes.
Buric reprises his menacing role from the original film and provides the clear link between the two films.
It’s hard to muster any sympathy for Frank as he prepares to lose his kneecaps.
He’s going down, and Prieto’s film threatens to follow.
By Damon Smith
:: SWEARING :: SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10
Released: October 12 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas), 88 mins