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Review: Prieto Remakes Refn's 'Pusher'

Thompson on Hollywood By Todd Gilchrist | Thompson on Hollywood October 20, 2012 at 3:24PM

Luis Prieto’s remake of "Pusher" is of interest because Nicolas Winding Refn's original offers such promising source material. But even with Refn's blessing, Prieto makes plenty of his own mistakes, delivering a stylish but perfunctory copy of his predecessor.
Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Pusher'
Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Pusher'

Additionally, Prieto’s decision to adopt Refn’s seven-day structure (title cards read “Monday,” etc.) undermines key moments of drama, and in at least two cases suggests that the film is just not willing to engage the fallout of choices that actually do speak to the characters’ personalities. Does it seem possible that guys looking for someone who owes them money wouldn’t look at his girlfriend’s apartment, especially after he escapes a confrontation with them at gunpoint? That the movie doesn’t address this either immediately or as a larger component of its world-building speaks to the focus of everyone involved – namely, on the look of that world, and how simply to bring it to life in the most superficial way possible.

That said, the same character details that existed in Refn’s original script help to distinguish several of the performances in this film. After playing Milo in the ’96 "Pusher," Buric is palpably comfortable as the drug supplier who makes the mistake of befriending his “employee” Frank, and he provides alternate measures of gregariousness and menace. As Milo’s enforcer Hakan, Mem Ferda has a surprising amount of humanity and tenderness, offering words of comfort to Frank even as he knows he may have to do terrible things later – to Frank even – to get the money owed to Milo.

Finally, Orbital follows the lead of electronic groups like Daft Punk, the Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx and provides a suitably energetic score for Prieto’s film, although by comparison, their compositions feel more like uptempo source cues than a cohesive musical backdrop for the story. But then again, that’s sort of a perfect metaphor for the entire film – a handful of good or even great ideas that never quite come together in a meaningful or purposeful way. Although Refn’s success is attracting attention to this movie, remember that his debut was a promise not fully delivered on for several more films. For Prieto’s sake, let’s hope the same thing is true with this "Pusher" as well.

This article is related to: Reviews, Reviews, Festivals, Fantastic Fest, Festivals

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.