Pusher

On the surface, Pusher bears all the superficial earmarks you'd expect from a self-consciously hip young filmmaker, lifting its vividly seedy underworld from Mean Streets, its heroin-fueled mayhem from Trainspotting, and plenty of other passages from the Book Of Tarantino. But first-time director Nicolas Winding Refn (son of Breaking The Waves editor Anders Refn) somehow emerges from the clichés with an exceptionally propulsive and harrowing tour through the Copenhagen drug trade. Much of Pusher's success is staked on the gruff charisma of its protagonist, Kim Bodnia, a small-time dealer and hired thug who scrambles to pay off his debts to bloodless Croatian supplier Zlatko Buric. His troubles are multiplied when he tries to sell a massive quantity of heroin to an undercover cop; though he evades capture, Bodnia dumps his 700-gram stash into a lake and winds up owing Buric a sum large enough to immediately endanger his health. Pusher covers a week in his life, with each title card compounding the sense of dread as he schemes to get fast money. Refn can't keep from romanticizing his hero's descent—especially in a poorly conceived romantic subplot involving a prostitute—but he has a sophisticated understanding of how the profession rewards luck more than honor. The more Bodnia struggles to come clean, the more sympathetic he becomes, but in the rarefied world of Pusher, there's no angle in being a conscientious criminal.

More DVD Review