Film review: Pusher
A DECADE on, and still Richard Coyle is linked by me to Stephen Moffat’s sitcom Coupling, as Jeff, the properly funny one.
Director: Luis Prieto
Running time: 89 minutes
Despite umpteen broody episodes of Covert Affairs, an experiment with knee breeches in Lorna Doone, and a tango-tanned appearance in Disney’s Prince Of Persia, I couldn’t help but yearn for Coyle to interrupt the Nazi zombies in Outpost II to express his fears of strip clubs as “porn that can see you”.
I seemed unable to get past Jeff, the actor equivalent of an earworm, until Pusher in which Coyle plays Frank, who is neither Welsh nor likely to pretend he has a wooden leg to impress a woman. Rather Frank is a worn, wary and weary drug dealer and user, who makes a risky leap into the big time by taking out a huge loan from London kingpin Milo (Zlatko Buric) at the beginning of a week. By Friday, the deal has gone badly wrong, he’s been arrested by the police, betrayed by his partner and has even tried to con his own mother in order to get enough cash to pay off his debt.
Frank only realises how alone he is in his world when he needs to call in some favours, and his frenzied attempts to turn this disaster around is depicted with fierce intensity. Meanwhile, his exotic dancer girlfriend (Agyness Deyn) looks on sadly, and occasionally tearfully, as women in these pictures often do. This is model Deyn’s movie debut but the character is so limited that it’s impossible to say whether she has a future in film. Mind you, she looks terrific in underwear; so yes, probably.
Luis Prieto’s remake is ultra-stylish but it helps if you haven’t seen Winding Refn’s original Pusher trilogy. I hadn’t; but I have now, and I understand why this version got a rather snooty reception from Drive fans when it had its world premiere at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. The original was made in 1996, the same year as Trainspotting, and starred Zlatko Buric in the same role; comparisons are inevitable, and Refn’s version feels fresher , more confident and more kinetic.
That said, the UK Pusher isn’t bad at all, and Coyle is so different to Kim Bodnia (a fit, stolid Danish Tom Sizemore lookalike) that he has the best shot of anyone at making the role his own, which he does. Frank never makes a direct appeal for our sympathy – he beats up his best friend, for goodness’s sake – but Coyle’s sweaty desperation invites at least empathy and there are some powerful moments, especially when Milo lends Frank some violent back-up as he tries to call in his own bad debts. The insinuation that this vicious form of collection may be turned in Frank’s direction if he doesn’t pay back what he owes, hovers over the film like a bad hangover.
• On general release from Friday
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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