Fantastic Fest 2012
By Don Simpson | September 26, 2012
Director: Luis Prieto
Writer: Matthew Read
Starring: Richard Coyle, Bronson Webb, Agyness Deyn, Mem Ferda, Zlatko Buric, Paul Kaye, Bill Thomas, Neil Maskell, Daisy Lewis, Ray Callaghan
It has been far too long since I have seen Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher (1996) and I don’t remember much about the plot, but the one thing I do recall is the relentless pummeling nature of the narrative. So upon entering the U.S. premiere of Luis Prieto’s English-language remake (at Fantastic Fest 2012), I had my seat-belt firmly fastened and I was ready for a wild ride.
Let’s just say that I am still waiting for that wild ride to begin. Don’t get me wrong, I did watch Luis Prieto’s Pusher, it was just not nearly as intense of an experience as I anticipated; in fact, it was the complete opposite of intense. I don’t know, maybe I am just tired of the drug dealer genre? At this point, all of the plots are the same. Small time dealer is looking for his big break. He forms allegiances with the wrong people and cannot hold up his end of the bargain. Next thing he knows, he is running for his life. There is always a dame involved; she is usually a stripper, prostitute, drug addict or a combination thereof. Sometimes we are supposed to feel sorry for the dealer, because certain economic restrictions force him into this behavior; other times the dealer’s life is glorified with sex, money and presumed freedom.
Prieto’s Pusher is exactly that — the same old story — and told very clinically at that. The characters speak slowly and clearly (as if someone in the studio complained that Americans would never be able to understand London street slang). Now I don’t necessarily expect neo-realism when it comes to the drug dealer genre of filmmaking, but I do expect some sort of flow to the conversation. Instead, every line feels like it is being read straight from a teleprompter — and I can only assume that this is not some purposefully Brechtian technique to point out that the actors are acting.
The pulse of Prieto’s Pusher is formed solely by Orbital’s perpetually pulsating soundtrack and it is the film’s over-reliance on music that constantly drags the narrative into dance clubs and parties. There is one payoff to this, however — a fight scene in which dancers seamlessly turn into fighters and back into dancers again.
I was really hoping that Refn’s involvement as Executive Producer would make Prieto’s Pusher a worthwhile remake, but I can only assume that Refn exists in the credits of this film in name alone. Refn has truly pushed the limits (in all directions) in action films, but Prieto’s Pusher pushes nothing but those same worn out buttons that everyone else is pushing.