Pusher Review

Pusher is an English-language remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 Danish film, a cult classic that eventually produced a trilogy popular in some circles. Nicolas Winding Refn, best known as the director of Drive, had a hand in the script for this remake but handed over directorial duties to Luis Prieto. An intense and edgy criminal thriller set in London, Pusher’s ultimate problem is the main protagonist is an unsympathetic drug dealer.

Pusher is really the story of one very bad week in the life of Frank (Richard Coyle), a small-time drug dealer whom ends up owing a massive amount of money to a ruthless Serbian crime boss, Milo (Zlatko Buric). Everything about Frank’s life is seedy, wandering in and out of a small circle of strippers, druggies and criminals. Looking for a big score, he ends up losing a kilogram of cocaine in a botched deal that involves a sudden police raid. Unfortunately for him, Frank now owes a large sum of money to Milo and has almost no way to pay it back on time. Milo tells Frank he will lose his legs below his kneecaps, if the crime lord does not get his money in a couple of days.

Frank treats everyone in his life poorly, especially once pressure from Milo starts to affect him. Frank’s girlfriend, a stripper named Flo (Agyness Deyn), is another person that Frank uses to his advantage. Frank starts out as a low-level drug dealer with a thin veneer of friendliness, but tramples every single person in his life when push comes to shove. When Frank thinks that his close friend, Tony, talked to the police, he mercilessly beats the young man with a baseball bat. It’s a pattern that repeats as the story unwinds, Frank becoming more unhinged over the week, desperation setting in. No one in his circle of family and friends is safe from Frank’s problems spilling over into their own lives.

Pusher’s best moments come from the dynamic between Milo and Frank, though the crime boss gives Frank so many chances it strains credibility. The story itself is full of action and pacing is never dull, but in the end it becomes hard to sympathize with Frank as a character. He’s not a particularly bright person and his selfish approach to life eventually consumes him and everyone he knows. Everything that happens to Frank is a direct result of his own actions, so it is hard to muster up any type of feeling for the dealer.

Pusher makes for a passable criminal thriller. It is a well-made movie with a polished script, but its core is very hollow due to the unlikeable lead character. An abrupt ending that begs for a sequel does not help matters.

Movie ★★★☆☆

Firm definition @ 28:23

Pusher has a glossy, slick appearance, courtesy of the RED ONE MX digital camera. The raw feed of that high-end camera is capable of 3,700 lines of resolution. That astonishing level of detail and resolution is reproduced without a hitch by Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray. The BD-25 is encoded in AVC at reasonable video bitrates, highlighting the pristine video’s razor-sharp image. The main feature runs 89:23 minutes.

Pusher’s video quality possesses all the top traits of the latest digital productions. It has a stunning level of detail, especially in tighter shots and close-ups. High-frequency content such as eyebrows, fine hair structure and facial pores are replicated to an uncanny degree in the 1080P video. The solid cinematography contains an eye for pleasing compositions in the 2.39:1 transfer, struck from a new digital intermediate.

Partly a function of the movie’s setting, the various London night clubs revel in a kaleidoscope of exotic lighting. Exterior shots are razor-sharp and vivid, rarely straying from a neutral color palette and inky black levels. Pusher’s overall picture quality is a bit sneaky since it lacks the pumped-up contrast and hot white levels so common on reference lists for video. Make no mistake, Pusher deserves to be on any reference list with its ultra-fine level of detail and outstanding clarity.

Video ★★★★★

Pusher’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is a raucous affair, full of pulsing bass and electronic dance music. The soundtrack’s music was largely composed by Orbital, the English electronic dance music duo. The sound design takes full advantage of the energetic club scenes and the more ruthless criminal action to achieve an immersive listening experience. Your subwoofer will get a workout from techno and club music, pushing volume beyond reference levels. Precise gunshots and other typical elements of modern audio design are key components of the action.

Effortless dialogue reproduction mixes nicely into the front soundstage. A certain amount of directionality enhances the atmosphere, as voices and music are often heard coming from distinct spots. The mix is not quite demo material but does everything well enough to garner a perfect score. Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles are the two provided choices. Both appear in a white font that remains within the 2.39:1 frame of the film.

Audio ★★★★☆

Anchor Bay has thrown a handful of special features together for Pusher. Nothing in the package is too substantial but does help to shed a little more light on the film’s characters and the production’s background. Included inside the package are four coupons for $2 off any of the following movies on Blu-ray or DVD, all of which expire in November of 2013: Killing Them Softly, One In The Chamber, Seeking Justice, The Son Of No One.

The Making of Pusher (18:16 in HD) – A fairly ordinary featurette consisting of standard comments from the cast and crew. Behind-the-scenes footage and on-set interviews in this case do help provide a better understanding of how these characters relate to one another and the casting process.

Premiere Q & A With the Director, Producer and Cast (12:15 in SD) – Luis Prieto, Richard Coyle, Agyness Deyn, and Nicolas Winding Refn answer some questions after the London premiere of Pusher.

 Three trailers precede the main menu: Erased (02:29 in HD), The Details (02:03 in HD), Rectify (02:36)

Extras ★☆☆☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.