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Fantastic Fest 2012: Capone is buying what the PUSHER remake is selling!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Austin for Fantastic Fest 2012.

I remember so clearly watching director Nicolas Winding Refn's PUSHER trilogy from Denmark. It wasn't afraid to go places no other film about the world of drug dealing had gone before, and it wasn't afraid to get as low to the ground as it need to. My best advice when it comes to any remake is to put the original out of your mind as much as you can. A near impossible task, I know, but comparing this new English-language version of PUSHER from Italian director Luis Prieto (Winding Refn is listed as an executive producer and makes something of a cameo) is pointless. There can be two very good movies of the same story, and that's exactly what we've got here--a different take on the same material that is very good, if not as great as its source material.

Richard Coyle (who I lost saw in Madonna's W.E.) plays the low-level, borderline-likable drug dealer Frank who leads a comfortable life with a stream of steady clients and a party lifestyle that he shares with his stripper girlfriend Flo (supermodel Agyness Deyn, who played Aphrodite in CLASH OF THE TITANS, so yeah, she's stunning). He's on good terms with his customers and his suppliers, and everybody's happy until Frank dares to get ambitious by arranging a shipment of cocaine from Amsterdam on his own. Anticipating that delivery coincides with his running into an old friend from prison, who wants an extraordinary amount of coke that Frank is willing to provide with help from his supplier Milo (Zlatko Buric, reprising his role from the original PUSHER).

But when the deal goes down, the cops swoop in to bust Frank, who manages to dump the product in a river, so the police have no evidence against him. He's eventually released, but now he has no money or product, plus the mule bringing in his product from Amsterdam seems to have vanished, making Milo very unhappy but willing to wait a couple of days to get his money. Strangely enough, PUSHER generates most of its drama not from the act of drug dealing, which Frank does with an alarming openness in clubs and by delivering to rich clients in person, but from Frank's search for cash. The journey to every corner of his life--past and present--in search of money is fascinating, dangerous, tense, and occasionally heartbreaking. A trip to his mother's house (clearly the first in many years) is so painful, you almost need to avert your eyes from the awkwardness.

Coyle is the key to PUSHER working as well as it does. In the first half of the film, he and his rapid-fire sidekick Tony (Bronson Webb, who has done supporting work in the last PIRATES OF THE CARIBEAN film, THE DARK KNIGHT, and "Game of Thrones") have a great comic chemistry that immediately makes you realize that Tony is going to fuck something on an epic scale. And I didn't realize going into this film that Deyn was a model. I thought she was an actress that I'd never seen before, and she does a great job playing the tragic beauty, who is so utterly devoted to her man that of course, he doesn't trust her. But it's Buric's returning Milo that just nails it with his combination of gallows humor and unbridled rage coming together into a wonderfully fleshed-out character that everyone will love as much as they fear.

PUSHER is about as solid a pure crime drama as I've seen in a while. I'm not saying it's breaking new ground (it is a remake after all), but it does offer a type of relentless sensibility that I've always found appealing. The film ends on a breathtaking cliffhanger, so I hope that director Prieto, screenwriter Matthew Read get a shot and finishing up their story the way Winding Refn did, or perhaps a little differently. Either way, I'd love to see it. The film lands on VOD September 28 and is in theaters on October 26.

-- Steve Prokopy
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