Pusher Reviews

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Super Reviewer
June 18, 2014
At 26 years of age Nicolas Winding Refn made his feature length debut with Pusher, a flawless piece of filmmaker that ranks among his very best films. I would put this film ahead of Drive and Bronson, and here is the work of a director who has a take no prisoners approach to making films and crafts one of the most stunning crime dramas that I have seen in quite some time. He would later follow up this film with two more sequels, all terrific, and with a great story, exceptional acting, and pulse pounding, raw intensity, Pusher is a superb film that is very impressive considering the fact that that Refn made this in his twenties. Pusher is highly engaging from start to finish and is a memorable crime drama that will stay with you long after you've seen it. Refn has an eye for what makes a good crime film, and with Pusher he would prove himself as a talented filmmakers with many other films. Pusher is a standout debut, and it's one of the most impressive film debuts I've seen since Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Brilliantly effective, raw, gritty filmmaking, Pusher is an accomplished picture that tells an engrossing story. Refn doesn't overdo the subject, which in turn makes the film much better, simple ideas make for great cinema, and with Pusher you get just that. This is a brilliant picture of which that shows that Nicolas Winding Refn was able to make a standout picture using so little. The cast deliver some solid performances, and it elevates the story even more. Combine that with standout direction from Winding Refn, and you have a near perfect picture that is much more elaborate in its ideas and entertainment value than big budget Hollywood movies. This is raw cinema, a piece of film so riveting that you won't be able to tear yourself away right up to the final shot.
Super Reviewer
May 22, 2013
A raw, intense, stylish and hard-edged thriller. It boils with tension and energy from its script, actors and the incomparable talent of its director. Director, Nicolas Winding Refn crafts a bold, compelling, twisty and slick crime story. With no experience before, Pusher is an electrifying debut of very talented and promising talent. Kim Bodnia is terrific, he plays an unlikeable character who deserves whats coming to him but you kinda wish the tables would turn another way down the course of the film. A rare fine in a independent film and a start to an interesting trilogy. A well-done piece of work shot with no money but makes it feel more real and disturbing.
paul o.
Super Reviewer
½ October 25, 2011
I liked it but seemed so simple and not as fast paced as I expected. He lost drugs and is screwed...thats about it? I mean theres nothing deep about a drug dealer and the violence wasn't the most brutal thing in the film.

Either way, a good entry for Nicholas Winding Refn because years later in 2011 Drive came out!
Super Reviewer
November 16, 2007
A day by day account of a week in the life of Copenhagen drug dealer Frank whose life falls apart when a deal goes bad. Pusher is the portrait of a small time criminal filmed in documentary style that reminded me a lot of Shane Meadows in it's unflinchingly realistic approach. The camera follows Frank wherever he goes in the seven days it takes his world to disintegrate as all of his "friends" betray and turn on him once they sense weakness; the ultimate price of way of life that revolves around self interest. All the characters are completely believable, particularly the mildly unpleasant and emotionally repressed Kim Bodnia who won't even kiss his "girlfriend" because of his refusal to associate with whores, and the beautiful Laura Drasbaek who stubbornly refuses to accept that that is in fact what she is. The rather unlikable characters do make it rather difficult to relate to them and a bit of humour would've gone a long way to temper this, but I would have to say that the big weakness of the film is the finale; or rather the lack of it. I usually prefer a story to let you draw your own conclusions as to the outcome but at the end of this film I just felt that I'd been abandoned and left hanging there. It did make me want to watch the next instalment however.
Super Reviewer
July 5, 2008
a tough realistic crime thriller about a bad week in the life of a small time drug dealer. there's a palpable atmosphere of dread that keeps u on the edge of your seat. good performances all around. i look forward to the sequels
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
November 4, 2013
Cocainehagen! ...Oh yeah, I did just say that, because as if Danish pastries weren't addictive enough, now we have Danish drugs. Huh, I just figured that the powdery topping was sugar, but no, it's evidently something a little more energizing, and it's sure not this film itself. Jeez, you might need to do a line in order to stay awake during this film, but hey, this flick is about drug pushers trying to get you to do a line, so I guess that means that Nicolas Winding Refn has made a pretty effective crime thriller here. I'd say that it's the first of many, but when I say that these are crime "thrillers", I use the term a little too loosely to overused. I don't know, I figure that this film is getting so much attention because it's considered the first Danish crime drama, which is bogus, for the record, because "Hamlet" was also about a Danish family doing some seriously disturbing junk, except, well, it was conceived by an Englishman, and it featured characters who at least attempted to show some etiquette while they were messing things up. With this film, you get a gritty gaze into the criminal heart of Denmark, and you know what, it's still boring, but for only so long, before it catches your attention with something.

Later on, I'll be touching upon this story's problems, of which there are oh so very, very many, but the subject matter itself has some meat to it, being an ostensibly realistic portrait of the lives of drug dealers, both as humans and men of criminal business, with an intricate attention to detail that bores more than immerses, but still has fascinating elements, undercut by shortcomings, both natural and consequential. A good bit of potential to this story concept is met by questionable areas, made all the more glaring by questionable areas within the telling of the story, but potential still stands, and light upon it can sometimes be found through effective moments in direction. Both as co-writer and director, Nicolas Winding Refn takes a very meditative approach to this subject matter, and such a storytelling style is distancing more than it is immersive, though there are times where the shaky, realistic filming style and thoughtfulness prove to be genuinely effective in drawing you into this environment, whose immersion value, of course, goes augmented by heights in intensity, seen through an audacious attention to danger and violence. Needless to say, lowlights outweigh highlights, arguably by a considerable margin, but highlights are still there to immerse, and for this, credit is not solely due to Winding Refn's hit-or-miss onffscreen performance, but also due to consistently sharp performances. Granted, the performances perhaps never slip-up because acting material feels relatively limited in this drama which mostly focuses on people simply being people, no matter how low-down and rotten, but the leads always have a certain charisma that almost sustains a reasonable bit of engagement value, which is decidedly sustained on the occasions in which dramatic layers are played up by this talented cast. As with most of these mediocre naturalist art film, the problem isn't incompetent filmmaking, it's questionable filmmaking, because no matter how well-done this film is in certain places, faulty ideas undercut engagement value, though not to where you can disregard the areas in the final product that are indeed done well. Still, those areas are far from abundant enough for you, or at least me, to come close to forgiving the final product for its many questionable moves, many of which aren't even all that unique.

The film is regarded as the first major Danish crime film, and in that context, you'd better believe that this thing was brand-spanking-new, but even by 1996, you needed only to look long enough through cinemas of other cultures to find subject matter of this nature explored time and again, even in this naturalist fashion, whose questionability is brought more to light by the familiarity, which also somehow manages to drive predictability into all of the aimlessness, exacerbated by some seriously draggy pacing. Considering the problematic storytelling style that Nicolas Winding Refn takes to this film, meandering was going to be a serious issue, but there's no excuse for the film to be as draggy as it ultimately is, bloating itself with only so much fat around the edges when it comes to substance, and a whole heap of excess to filler, whose limitations in liveliness challenge your attention about as much as pacing problems, in general, challenge the focus of storytelling itself. Two years before this film, Quentin Tarantino unveiled "Pulp Fiction", which was one of the more innovative bits in the aforementioned plentiful load of naturalist crime thrillers of this type, and rewarded in spite of its achieving its two-and-a-half-hour-long runtime largely through meandering excesses in filler and dialogue, but Winding Refn, as writer, accompanied by Jens Dahl, doesn't know what he's doing, offering only so much to keep you drawn to the drama through all of its excessiveness, which ends up directing your attention more and more toward natural shortcomings. I don't know if it's fair to call some of the biggest problems with this narrative natural, because Winding Refn didn't have to make an arty, subjective meditation on the day-to-day lives of drug dealers, but that's the story he's drawn, and let me tell you, even on paper, it barely works, outlining a narrative that meanders to no end, thriving on aimless filler that tries to immerse you, but typically doesn't, partly because the usual audience member isn't likely to relate to these characters and their stories enough to see the world through their eyes, or even like them. Even when you disregard problematic characters and their situations, this meandering, distancing type of narrative concept is mighty difficult to pull off with compellingness, and as you can imagine, the aforementioned draggy plot structuring is not the way to go, especially when you make matters all the worse with a distancing flaw that solidifies the final product as just downright disengaging: atmospheric limpness. Again, Winding Refn's naturalist directorial approach to this subject matter is sometimes pretty effective in immersing you, especially when, you know, something actually happens in this blasted do-little plot, but on the whole, Winding Refn's direction is mostly distancing, making quiet and cold meditations upon nothingness that stiffen pacing, and therefore give you a chance to ponder upon all of the dragginess to storytelling, resulting in a near-punishing dullness that rarely abates, and thoroughly disengages. Sure, what might save the film most from contempt is its simply being too bland to be bad, and genuinely engaging attributes sure do help, but the final product is also too bland to be enjoyable, having a certain potential that is all but obscured by hopelessly aimless, dull and even familiar storytelling that ultimately crafts a mediocre "effort".

Overall, the concept of realistically approaching gritty subject matter is kind of interesting on paper, and is brought to life enough by highlights in meditative storytelling and charismatic, when not dramatically layered lead performances enough for the final product to escape contempt, but there's no getting around the familiarity and meanderings of this naturalist, do-little story concept, whose near-painfully draggy and atmospherically cold storytelling establishes an overwhelming dullness that drives Nicolas Winding Refn's "Pusher" into mediocrity as yet another misguided art crime "thriller".

2/5 - Weak
Super Reviewer
February 23, 2007
An extremely depressing but thrilling examination of a drug pusher's inevitable spiral into hell on earth.

Kinetic direction, convincing performances and a realistic portrayl of a criminal underworld elevate this low budget flick above the usual glorification-of-crime films of this genre. I'm not sure I'd want to watch it again in a hurry, and that's meant as a compliment - this is powerful stuf.
Super Reviewer
November 24, 2006
Character-driven Danish drug drama is refreshingly realistic.
Francisco G.
Super Reviewer
½ December 11, 2011
An impressive feat by someone who had no experience whatsover on the making of movies. The way the movie transforms from a silly bro comedy into darker, tenser territory is very well made, though it wastes a bit too much time on pointless improvised scenes and trying to be more realistic than it should be.
Super Reviewer
½ December 12, 2008
It's gritty and realistic. Definitely worth a watch if you're into crime dramas.
½ November 23, 2011
The most interesting dynamic in the film, the relationship between the lead and Mads Mikkelsen, sadly ends too early.
July 16, 2013
Like Andrew Dominik's "Chopper", "Pusher" has all the dressings of a noted filmmaker's work. It's just how it's packaged: done up with small-time hoods and hookers, pornography, violence, neon nightclubs, despicable characters; it's so scummy an underworld -- that seedy, druggy playground Nicolas Winding Refn oh so loves to explore -- that "Pusher" seems appropriately out of its element whenever it enters the law and societal artifice of the real world; for one thing, there's SUN. It's not as polished as Refn's later works, but "Pusher" is a damn fine crime film, debut or otherwise. And the look of the thing is so home-made (nice for "cheap", which is nice for "shitty") you feel each passing time interval heroin pusher Frank (Kim Bodnia) asks of drug lord Milo (Zlatko Buric) in paying off his debt like a meter either depleted or temporarily nourished. Povl Kristian and Peter Peter's score wafts through the condemnable tracksuit urbanity like a heartless wind of change.
February 1, 2012
Strange ending this movie had. I'm sure it has a meaning to it but I don't really feel like watching it again to figure it out. Worth a warch but I don't know if I'll sit through it again.
½ June 7, 2007
PUSHER is a dark and raw crime drama from Denmark that shows what happens in the shadows of drug pushers. Great from the first frame, the film delivers an honest vision and welcomes us into Frank's unstable world. Alone or with back-stabbing characters worse than he is, Frank makes one deal to many and is pressured with the ultimate price. An enjoyable character to watch that always finds it easier to trust himself, not even his loyal girlfriend. What caught my attention was the camera work specifically how it moves continuously and changes direction. Some can argue Pusher could be considered a "Dogma" film due to it's hand held work, natural lighting and complete absence of separate music soundtrack. This adds to the realism and the film's tone. Dogma can be definetly incorporated into any genre and it works really well with this crime drama thanks to director Nicolas Winding Refn's vision. The first of 3 parts, Pusher is a must see for the crime/ganster lover in you.
Favorite Scene: Frank and Tony have a "play knife fight" at a bar. Looks like it was slowed down in post. Very Cool.
June 6, 2007
A very gritty, raw and tense action film. It is one of the most ultimate versions of the "drug deal gone wrong" story that I've ever seen. The characters are believable and pretty screwed up. At times you just can't believe how incredibly bad things have gotten for the protagonist Frank, and yet you are compelled to keep watching to see what happens to him next. It is quite violent and also sexually explicit jokes and dialogue. The moving camera shots on the street add to the realism and escalate the tension. This is the first part of the PUSHER trilogy. Favorite scene: The drug deal with the Swede.
October 8, 2013
Having seen most of Nicolas Winding Refn's recent work, it was kind of awkward going back to his debut feature film. While it does show flashes of brilliance, hints of what Refn's style would develop into, for the most part it's your typical "mid-level drug dealer gets in over his head" film that has been many times before (and better). PUSHER follows Frank, a Danish drug dealer who is about to make this huge deal with some Swedes. However, at the moment the deal is about to go down, the cops show up and he has to dump the dope in the river. This puts him in some serious debt to Milo, a Serbian drug lord, and the rest of the film is Frank trying to get the money to pay him back. Before watching this, I did scope a few reviews just to see what kind of film I was getting into, and one comparison I saw a few times was with MEAN STREETS. While I can see the surface similarities, ultimately PUSHER doesn't have as many likeable characters and feels more amateurish. Since I don't speak Danish, I can't really say whether the acting was good for sure, but it didn't seem too bad. The production values were also pretty good for a low-budget indie film. Even the script and dialogue weren't too bad. My favorite parts were in the first 20-30 minutes when Frank and his best friend, Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen), share some Tarantino-esque exchanges about whatever was on their minds at the time. However, once the plot kicks in, whatever sense of fun the film had before was all but gone. I don't mind gritty realism, and the cinema verite style in which the film is shot was handled quite well, but I never connected with the story all that much. It also didn't help that Frank was such an unlikeable prick. For my money, Tonny was the most interesting character, but he's not in the film for too long. Fortunately I am aware that Tonny is the focus of the the sequel, so it has that much going for it. Ultimately, PUSHER is a well-made film that shows some of the talent that Refn would later put to great use, but the story has been done many times before, and better.
June 8, 2014
This is NOT a polished Hollywood film this is brass knuckles Indie at its very best!
½ September 15, 2014
After Refn made an unsuccessful English-language debut with 2003's "Fear X," he returned to Denmark to shoot parts two and three of "The Pusher Trilogy." But the new films aren't a continuation, and the layoff didn't dull Refn's ability to tell an engaging crime story. In "Pusher 2: With Blood On My Hands," the film explores a drug-dealer's former sidekick as he deals with new challenges in the world of crime, drugs, and becoming a father.

Frank's ex-sidekick from the first film, Tonny, wonderfully played by Mads Mikkelsen is fresh out of prison. Tonny is eager to prove his worth as earner and son to his crime boss father (Leif Sylvester Petersen), known as the Duke. Routinely called a loser by everyone he knows -- he practically invites abuse by sporting a tattooed "respect" on the back of his bald head. Tonny also tries to ingratiate himself with his recalcitrant father (Leif Sylvester Petersen), who can hardly trust him with anything. The back-breaking straw is the appearance of a baby that Tonny's old non-girlfriend (Anne Sorensen) claims is his. The bitterness and betrayal mounts as Tonny begins to wonder if he should rewrite his life, and the fate of the neglected infant.

At its core, the film about is about broken families and serves as a stark reminder of the lasting effects on our actions can have on future generations. Tonny's entire life has been spent on only one thing: trying to gain the approval of his father. And not only that he learns on his release that he is very likely the father of a baby boy, one so neglected by his junkie mother that he hasn't even been given a name yet. Refn is painting a bleak picture of a child without a chance. He is in complete control behind the camera, but this film belongs purely and simply to Mikkelsen. He is absolutely stunning, flawlessly embodying the insecurities and desire that drives Tonny. Against all odds, Tonny becomes a sympathetic hero in an increasingly tragic tale. It's not hard to spot the need that drives his self-destructive behavior: it's practically written all over his face - or at least the back of his head.
½ September 5, 2012
Nicolas Winding Refn's impressive film debut is unrelentingly fierce and gritty; it's almost cinema verite style in service to gripping story bolstered by Kim Bodnia's lead turn.
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