Pusher – film review
Director: Luis Prieto
Writer: Matthew Read
Stars: Richard Coyle, Bronson Webb and Agyness Deyn
Another review from Edingburgh’s film festival, Pusher unwinds the story of one week in the life of a drug pusher. Louder Than War readers should also take note that the film features a score from Orbital.
Adapted from a Danish cult classic – Danish drama being all the rage thanks to BBC4’S Saturday night output – this reworking is the first English work of Spanish director Luis Prieto. Dealing with the spiralling out of control life of a drug dealer Frank – an outstanding and intense performance from Richard Coyle – who finds himself in debt through a serious of miscalculated and ill advised deals resulting in his falling further into the demi-monde of the seedy side of East London. It is a fast paced film with an original score by Orbital, who encapsulate the era it appears to try and re-create. If it is not wholly successful it is down to the fact that the relationships between the protagonists and his sidekicks- a mouthy loose-cannon best friend and partner and a coke sniffing escort girlfriend- it is because these characterisations are more clichÃÂ©d now, having become almost synonymous with this sort of tale, than they were in the original version which hails from the mid-nineties.
The action starts well enough with Frank and his friend Tony – Bronson Webb – indulging in the club scene and the alcohol, drugs and women which are part of that package. Determined to move up in status Frank arranges two major drug deals ”âone in London the other in Amsterdam- and through miscalculations, dodgy deals and rip offs ends up losing money, drugs and finds himself fifty five grand in debt to a major drug lord Milo- a brooding, malevolent Zlatco Burik- who takes no prisoners and has a psychotic sidekick who derives great pleasure in inflicting pain upon others.
Attempts to raise the cash seem constantly about to resolve themselves but at the last minute something always goes wrong and Frank thus finds himself slipping further into trouble whilst adopting more desperate measures to rectify his situation. Time is running out however and unable to trust anyone he keeps his impending demise from his escort girlfriend Flo- Agyness Deyn- who has enjoyed the high life and status a drug dealer boyfriend has allowed her. Events reach a crescendo when Frank’s time runs out however and the film speeds along to this climactic moment with a great deal of skill, tension and a growing sense of unease.
What really sets this film apart from others of this genre is Richard Coyle’s central performance which does not always rely on him articulating his angst verbally but instead he dextrously uses nuance in his expression to communicate his inner turmoil and mistrust. He is ably supported by the rest of the cast however although it is hard to tell if Deyn is a good actress, as all her part requires is that she snort coke or look alternately gorgeous and vacant: skills she could have picked up from her former modelling career rather than acting classes. She does light up the screen with a luminous presence-Edie Sedgwick-like styling assists here- and is believable in her part. The score by Orbital also lifts the film up above its contemporaries and this attention to detail makes it worthwhile even if the drama follows a familiar and almost predictable path.
All words by David Marren. You can read more from David on LTW here.