EIFF 2012: Luis Prieto’s PUSHER Review

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Luis Prieto’s British made update of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 film, Pusher, receives its world premiere at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. The Spanish director has presented us with a gripping, adrenaline fuelled ride, which is by far one of the most exciting British crime thrillers in recent years.
Frank (Richard Coyle) may just be London’s most unlucky drug dealer. After a deal goes horrendously wrong, he finds himself owing a ruthless Serbian crime boss over £55,000. In a desperate search for money, Frank soon finds his life spiralling out of control and relationships with those around him beginning to crumble.
It is hard to deviate from certain traditional elements in this genre, for example, risky deals and unrelenting Mr. Big figures are always going to feature. However, these elements feel utterly fresh and skilfully handled in Pusher, thanks to Prieto’s energy as a storyteller. The Spanish director’s film feels like a fusion of the classic British crime thriller (Coyle’s performance drawing some parallels to that of Stacey Keach in 1977 feature, The Squeeze), with an added vibrant, modern twist.

The tension rarely drops in Pusher, creating a truly gripping ride. This is furthered by Simon Dennis’ striking cinematography – creating a visually impressive piece taking on pulsing neon infused clubs to dank warehouses, with equal impact. Pusher also captures the ruthless and gritty criminal underworld of London through Frank’s encounters with Serbian crime Boss, Milo (Zlatko Buric, star of Refn’s original Pusher Trilogy) – most notably in one suspenseful scene involving bolt cutters and a finger. The high octane thrills are paired with a energetic electronic dance score from Orbital, fitting the tone of Pusher perfectly.
Even Pusher’s day by day narrative structure acts as reflection of Frank’s impending deadline, ebbing closer. This means it is hard not to feel part of the dealers’ journey as he uses every resource he has to get money – whether it be calling in on old loans from vulnerable customers or simply by taking it from the sleaziest clients. Even Pushers’ emotive conclusion is cut off in the height of anguish and tension, leaving the viewer to question the outcome.
Richard Coyle’s solid lead performance thrusts us into the desperation and angst that faces the character, however, we as the audience are always on his side. Agyness Dean’s supporting turn as Frank’s girlfriend, Flo, proves equally flawless. Flo simply wants a better life for herself and Frank – she works as a dancer and escort, careers that are beneath her, and as viewer you want to see her and Frank happy. Zlatko Buric’s intense performance as Milo also proves to be a chief scene stealer throughout Pusher.
Luis Prieto’s Pusher proves to be an exhilarating, thrill ride that holds the viewer in a vice-like grip from start to finish. The vibrant cinematography combined with an outstanding lead performance from Richard Coyle and a razor sharp score from Orbital, help make Pusher one of the strongest British crime thrillers in recent years.

Andrew McArthur

Rating: 18
UK Release Date: 12th October 2012 (World Premiere Edinburgh 21st June 2012)
Director: Luis Prieto
Stars: Richard Coyle, Agyness Deyn , Zlatko Buric, Paul Kaye

Pusher – Official Theatrical Trailer Published via LongTail.tv