Sunday, February 03, 2013

VIFF '13: Pusher's Addictive Qualities: A Movie Review

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Director: Luis Prieto.

Writer: Matthew Read.

Cast: Richard Coyle, Bronson Webb, Agyness Deyn, Mem Ferda and Zlatko Buric.

The Victoria International Film Festival has begun! This annual event began February 1st and February 2nd offered Luis Prieto's Pusher. This title is a remake of Nicolas Winding Refn's (Drive) original film of the same name. Both films deal with a drug dealing and drug using character named Frank (Richard Coyle). Other characters such as Flo (Agyness Deyn) and Tony (Bronson Webb) can act as an anti-thesis to this central character, but Frank is consistently leading the action. Flo is the romantic interest, who seems to care more about Frank than he does himself. All of these characters create an entertaining time in a well shot London backdrop.

Frank is a low level drug dealer with aspirations. An old cellmate, who Frank barely knows, wants to buy a kilogram of cocaine. Frank sees a quick payoff. So, he enlists his friend Tony and kingpin buddy Milo (Zlatko Buric) to help with the deal. Tony holds the product, while Frank pulls off the deal. As well, Milo is set to make the majority of the money as he is the one supplying the drugs. Of course, events go badly for Frank. His drug deal is busted by the local constabulary and Frank has to dump his coke, to escape conviction. Now, Frank owes Milo fifty-five thousand British Pounds, with little time to pay back his debt. Time is now ticking down on Frank's life.

In all of this chaos emerges a strong friendship between Frank and Flo. These characters are both flawed, but Flo seems to have more to offer than Frank. She is caring when Frank is dismissive. Though Flo shares just as many addictions as Frank, these characters find a common bond in sex, drugs and a fast lifestyle. These elements also create for a rocky relationship, with Flo's prostitution offering another crux. It is amazing to see these characters still relating late into the picture.

Frank's problems seem to increase over time. He is living the high life, until the mid-point of the film. With Frank in debt to Milo, this once caring and carefree character has to rob friends, beat partners and con' his own mother to get money and save his own life. Some viewers might be rooting for this character to crash and he does, to an extent. This watcher was hoping that Frank might overcome his many challenges, but this is not how the story develops. Frank's character arc and change from caring friend to thief and manipulator leads Frank into the abyss. He is unable to recover, despite Flo's desire for a positive change.

Pusher is a compelling film. There are no dull moments in this feature as director Luis Prieto creates an interesting visual sphere. The settings are exotic, lit by neon colours and full of extras. The musical choices are upbeat and the acting is consistently admirable. Actor Mem Ferda is especially believable as a threatening enforcer, named Hakan. The conclusion is one of few weak elements, with events unresolved. The character Tony also adds little to the film. Overall, Pusher is an excellent title, which will leave many thriller fans breathless and possibly even saddened by Frank's self-destructive choices.

Overall: 7.5 out of 10.

*releasing in the United Kingdom February 11th on DVD and Blu-ray.

**the soundtrack is partially performed by bands Austra, Orbital and others.

More on the film can be found here:

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