director Nicolas Winding Refn
Nicolas Winding Refn was hardly an overnight sensation, though most of America (including myself) only really caught on after his 2011 film Drive made a big splash. I’d had a few of his films in my Netflix queue forever, but other than Valhalla Rising (2009), even since Drive, I hadn’t gotten around to any of them. Of course, now his newest film is out, Only God Forgives (2013), and while it’s gotten a healthy mixture of praise and pans, I figured I ought to go back to his other works.
Actually, my summer movie queue was meant to address a number of films that I’ve had for years not gotten around to but should have. Winding Refn’s debut, Pusher, seemed a good place to start.
But I have to admit, I was surprised to realize that the film was nearly 20 years old. I really have been slacking on this Dane’s output.
It’s a gritty, visceral thriller set in the thuggish underground of Copenhagen. What’s kind of interesting is how these guys could easily be transplanted into the thuggish underground of almost any country where white criminals abound. Change the language, make them English, for instance, you wouldn’t have to change much.
Oh wait, they did that. They remade the film in England in 2012. So clearly, I’m not alone in thinking that.
Seen in 2013, this film doesn’t strike me as feeling as original and innovative as it might have in 1996. I only say that because it’s not unlike a lot of tough guy movies in which the criminals are the antiheroes and also the villains, separated by degrees of cruelty.
It’s a solid film, well-made, using hand-held camera work to give a naturalistic or documentary feel to it. Again, back in 1996, this was coming to be a thing. Then it became a thing of overuse, cliche, and abuse. So, it’s a little harder to see it with fresh eyes still. It’s certainly not to the film’s detriment. It’s well-done. Just not unique or striking or different in big ways from a lot of other things.