I’m a child of the 80s. I grew up with Michael Mann’s Miami Vice. I watched movies like Scarface and To Live And Die In LA religiously. I lived through the end of the Cocaine Cowboys era. I called it the time of “colorful crime“. Pink and green neon lights shining over crooked drug deals in night club parking lots. Rhythmic synthesizer beats blaring out of passing car speakers. That stuff just screams 80s. Its why I love the film Drive. It speaks to my youth. Director Nicolas Winding Refn shot it like a film that could slide right into that era or universe. Some people didn’t understand or appreciate its minimalistic nature and sudden brutal violence. But it was a depiction and/or nod to the lifestyle of that time more than an intricately plotted crime drama. A loner trying to make better of himself is unwittingly forced into a situation that brings it all down. A simple formula that fits perfectly with 80s sheik. After Drive, Refn produced a remake of his first film with that same formula and style. That film is Pusher.
Pusher comes to us from Spanish director Luis Prieto. Set in England, Pusher tells us the story of Frank. A loner trying to make better of himself but is unwittingly forced into a situation that brings it all down. See? From the opening sequence you can feel the British crime vibe as Guy Ritchie like title cards flash over character’s faces. British crime films like this are a little more frenetically paced than films like…Heat lets say. Pusher, however, still feels very REMINISCENT of the 80s style. The neon is there. The rhythmic synthesizer beats are there. The amazingly photographed night shots are there. And boy, are the crooked drug deals there.
Prieto’s visual style does tend to teeter back and forth between 80s art piece and British gangster film. From Manhunter to Long Good Friday and back again. However, when he sticks to the neon and naked city aspects, the film really sets itself apart. Less so than Refn’s original but still enough for you to take notice.
Whenever Brad Pitt or George Clooney or Tom Cruise play a role, you have the sense that no matter what’s happening, they’ll be okay. You don’t really worry for their characters the way you should. They just present themselves as the inevitable winner in most of their films. That works out well when they aren’t, but it only serves as a benefit for the end of that film. You never experience the growing peril or dread fully. In Pusher, Richard Coyle plays Frank with a rich and realistic feel. He’s not a stereotypical hero. He’s not amazingly smart or an amazing fighter or a nut case. He’s real. This makes you concerned for his safety and feel his desperation more than if they’d gone with a more recognizable star.
Pusher is not groundbreaking or a classic. However, it is a very visually interesting watch and does hold itself up as a worthy remake. Blag some gear….give it a propah butcher’s….then tell me I’m Pete Tong.