Pusher (1996)

“For instance, there was this Turkish guy once. He fucked up and owed Milo some money. So I went over to his place. I’d been there many times before, asking for the money in a polite way, without any luck. Finally, I took a knife, stabbed it in his kneecap and teared the shit up. Sometimes, I’d like to have another job. Believe me.”

‘Pusher’, directed in 1996 by Nicolas Winding Refn, is a Danish drama set in the drug underworld of Copenhagen. Frank, played by Kim Bodnia, is a small time drug-dealer. With his friend Tonny, played by Mads Mikkelsen, he travels around the city delivering heroin to customers and maintains a casual relationship with a sex worker called Vic, played by Laura Drasbæk. When a deal goes wrong and Frank and Tonny are arrested, the police drive a wedge between the pair. On his own, Frank falls foul of a Serbian drugs kingpin called Milo and is forced to try to make a vast amount of money in a short amount of time. It’s a grim, gritty but kinetic movie with semi-improvised and edgy performances, particularly from Kim Bodnia, an actor brought in at the last minute when the original choice was fired. The violence is shocking, but there are also touched of light humour throughout the film, and even moments of sentimentality, albeit tempered by the seedy plot. Refn’s first film has that raw feel to it shared by Mathieu Kassovitz’s ‘La Haine’ made the year before, also a debut feature film. ‘Pusher’ was expanded from a shorter film and you can tell that it has been inflated at times, although this gives the movie a meandering feel that suits the subject well. Heavily influenced by documentary-style dramas such as ‘The Battle of Algiers’ and ‘The Killing of a Chinese Bookie’, this still manages to feel original and important, perhaps due to the combination of the gangster plot with the city.

Would I recommend it? Yes – Refn’s films, whilst not always palatable, are always interesting. Watch in a double bill with ‘The Killing of a Chinese Bookie’.

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