Monday 15, October 2012
In 1996 Danish filmmaker Nicholas Winding Refn released his debut film, Pusher. The movie was a huge commercial and critical success in Denmark as well as other parts of mainland Europe and spawned two sequels and a Hindi remake.
Like the original, the film follows small-time drug
dealer Frank (Richard Coyle) who is betrayed by his friend Tony (Bronson Webb),
finding himself in debt to Croatian drug-lord Milo (Zlatko Buric). Presumably
Prieto’s philosophy when it came to his Pusher
was ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, as it is remarkably similar to the
original. Of course any remake is going to bare a strong resemblance to the
original source material, though there have been notable exceptions to this
rule. Even so, this new version is incredibly close to the original, to the
extent where it would seem that whole pages of dialogue have been lifted from
the original script and implanted in this version.
The minor changes Prieto has made are what ultimately let this film down. Refn’s original is 105 minutes while Prieto’s version clocks in at a mere 89 minutes. By shaving off 16 minutes Prieto sacrifices significant exchanges between the characters, exchanges that give their relationships more depth. While the original is not exactly a deep exploration of the power of human relationships, there are more scenes that flesh-out Frank’s connection with those around him, from his close friendship with Tony, which gives the subsequent betrayal more gravitas, to his complex relationship with sort-of girlfriend Flo (Vic in the original); Frank’s inability to engage with her sexually or romantically is simply brushed over in the new version.
The humanity is therefore lost so it is harder for the viewer to sympathise with the protagonist Frank who, while played reasonably well by Richard Coyle, lacks the sympathy of Refn’s Frank (Kim Bodina), who practically carries the original movie. Also though Prieto’s film may be slicker and not as rough around the edges as the original, this also means it lacks the raw grit and power of Refn’s original.
It would be wrong to say that this is an unnecessary remake,
as it is arguably introducing a film that was incredibly popular in its home
country to a potential new audience in Britain and USA. But because it sticks
so religiously to the source material, and any changes made simply weaken it,
one has to wonder what the point of this whole exercise was. Though not without
its flaws, Refn’s Pusher is superior
to Prieto’s, which is less a remake and more a lukewarm reheat.
My Rating - 5/10
Pusher is on at the Odeon in The Printworks all this week.
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