Tuesday, June 27, 2006

KBT Presents: PUSHER

Where to begin with Nicholas Winding Refn's crime drama, Pusher? Made in the age of the dizzyingly slick stylizations of Michael Mann's Heat and Luc Besson's Leon: The Professional; Pusher stands out as being a rolling in the gutter, mad-dog of a film. One week in the lives of mid-level criminals Frank and his not-too-bright partner Tonny spans the gamut from kings of the street to the most desperate of beggars.

Frank has been steadily contributing to his rolled wad of cash by building a diverse list of clients in the Copenhagen underworld. He buys his drugs from a dangerously calm and friendly Serbian drug-lord who runs a restaurant on the side. He has a semi-permanent relationship with one of his stash-girls, a high class 'champagne girl' named Vic. When an opportunity to move a serious amount of heroin (a deal which is perhaps out of his league) comes along, his tale becomes a cautionary one in just how edge-of-the-knife the existence of 'middle-man' for his line of work can be.

With an emphasis on the criminal day-to-day life, Pusher has a ring of authenticity that is paradoxically enhanced by the in-your-face handheld camera work and pounding industrial soundtrack. That the film is unafraid to go places most films of the type shy away from, not just to the desperate and violent corners of the criminal existence, but also the dysfunctional sense of intimacy that living on the edge gives to its central characters. A scene where Frank’s world is spiraling out of control, but he still stops to by Vic a present and takes her to a party is contrasted starkly by how he deals with her thanks for the gift. Going this deep into Franks personal life, while turning up the fire at his feet imparts a rare sense of pathos and pity for such a thoroughly unlikable thug. A scene with Frank visiting his mother in suburbia somehow takes things even further. All the while, Refn never lets the screws stop tightening on Franks spiral of diminishing hopes and growing debt.

Pusher ultimately becomes cinema at its most masochistic: The audience is punished in the form of inventive genre cinema at its transcendent peak. This is a whopper of a debut film from a director who was under 30 at the time. Or perhaps I gush because the along with the two sequels, the Pusher trilogy creates a crime milieu with astonishing depth and human resonance.

Expect the other two films to follow as screenings in the future (which I assure you, will eradicate any impulses to take of a life of crime, no films have shattered the false glamour better than these). Come out Tuesday night for this harrowing and punishing crime drama. Drinks at 8. Trailers and Showtime at 8:30pm.


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