It’s a brave man who dares to remake Nicolas Winding Refn’s dark and deadly tale of Eurotrash drug dealers and their world. That man is Luis Prieto who, alongside partner in crime Richard Coyle, succeeds in presenting a harsh and unforgiving portrait of the UK drug scene.
Sheffielder Coyle is Frank, in hock to a so-called supplier friend whose viciousness is masked by fake bonhomie. Instead Frank finds himself in a friendless dog-eat-dog world of betrayal in which he is in decidedly over his head.
Needing hard cash to pay a debt he hunts out his own creditors and finds that recovering what he is owed – to pay what he owes – is impossible. Desperate and scared, he tips over the edge.
Pusher, like its 1996 antecedent, is hardly an original concept. What both films – and particularly this new attempt – do is pile on the energy, sweat and violence as Frank (Coyle in magnificent, star-making form) tears across London from one target to another.
Prieto has an eye for visuals be it a sleazy back-room office, a lock-up or a cacophonous party at which Frank mugs the entire room. And it moves. Speed is of the essence and in Frank/Coyle Prieto fashions an anti-hero (he’s a louse) whose only root is girlfriend Flo (Agyness Deyn).
The film is packed with impressive character actors – Paul Kaye, Neil (Kill List) Maskell and Zlatko Buric, a link to Refn’s film and playing the same role – and has the courage to opt for an unhappy ending. In this world of sanitised fluff it’s a rare and salutary thing.