Now it’s Milo’s (Zlatko Buric) turn the big bad drug dealer from the original Pusher. It begins with him going to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. He says he wants to get clean so he can have a better relationship with his daughter Milena (Marinela Dekic). In the next scene Milo goes back to scoring drugs but he’s also planning Milena’s birthday party. As the big night nears Milo finds out that his latest score was ecstasy not heroin but sorting that out doesn’t seem so much of a priority to him. Milo gets busy cooking for his family gathering while his underlings try to sort out the X/dope mess. Milena’s got her own interests too and she’s not afraid of her badass father. The twist of the family story is a nice change-up for the Pusher series but it still delves into the violent world of drugs and qualifies as a worthy entry to the franchise. Buric plays a much older Milo here than he did in the first Pusher. With a deep sorry mumble he’s going through the motions of older age. He gets exasperated with his crew for pestering him while he’s trying to attend to his family and he seems like a normal dad in that way. Family fights are the same normal blow ups with quick forgiveness that happen at any Thanksgiving day gathering. As the night wears on Buric shows Milo’s growing intensity. His silent brooding means he is evaluating his distractions but really remains calm in even the worst of drug mishaps. It’s way cooler than the panicked street hoods of the first two Pushers. Now you can watch a real pro at work. As Milena Dekick doesn’t have too much personality. Is she spoiled? We get hints of that. Is she just controlling? Probably and with good reason living in that family. The other crew members are just generic criminals. Focusing on the family and Milo’s attempted recovery from addiction is a good twist. All the street dealing was getting old especially in Pusher II. This seems like a more adult Pusher dealing with real issues everyone has in some way--work family etc. It’s just most people aren’t thugs. Like a My Big Fat European Pusher this third one creates more excitement around the party preparations than the crime world. Still the movie is a Pusher so you’re waiting for the crime story to pop back in. The violence is plenty brutal but it’s torture not action. There’s no suspense because this is Milo the man in charge. It really makes one wish they’d just combined all three perspectives into one massive expose rather than dragging it out through three films.
Frank the drug dealer (Kim Bodnia) works the streets selling his wares. His friend Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen) is kind of the muscle but mainly the two just talk about sex while they wait for clients. This isn’t the eloquent funny sex talk of a Pulp Fiction. It’s the crude blatant lingo of real street thugs. No pop culture in this dialogue unless there’s a lot of Danish references we don’t get. Frank’s girlfriend Vic (Laura Drasbaek) is hooked as well and he provides the fix for the trio. But he owes Milo (Zlatko Buric) $50 000 and he’s fresh out of product. He gets enough from another source on credit to earn the money he owes Milo but a police bust leaves him with nothing before he can sell any. Frank spends the next week in a rush to pay off Milo. As the week goes on he gets more and more desperate as clients don’t pay him. Milo and his goon Radovan (Slavko Labovic) pursue Frank and even his closest friends prove untrustworthy. Every scheme he thinks of to get money or stall Milo backfires and the closer he gets to deadline the more violent everything becomes. Even though the opening of the Danish Pusher introduces each main character with an on-screen ID it’s still hard to tell them apart. That’s partly a language barrier since you can’t distinguish someone by their voice. And there are lots of guys with shaved heads. But after a good 45 minutes Bodnia as Frank distinguished himself and makes a gradual transition from indifferent to desperate. In the first half he seems like he’s sleepwalking like most street dealers probably are. Once things start going bad he conveys a human desperation that transcends the subtitles. Mikkelsen has a dangerous side that doesn’t get explored nearly enough in the film. He falls out of the story once Frank really goes after his own clients. Buric as Milo the head dealer is typically cooler than his underlings more sophisticated and dresses better. He’s nonchalant when he threatens Frank so you know he’s really the deadliest of all. In his first film Nicolas Winding Refn does a solid job holding the story together and showing he can do a well-worn genre with a bit of style. If made in English Pusher would at least be good enough for HBO so the art house circuit is a given. Most of the film is shot handheld which seems to be a filmmakers’ go-to trick to make things feel “real.” But while many filmmakers go overboard shaking things so much that nobody’s vision actually looks that jumpy Refn keeps it under control keeping everything important in the frame so you can still see everyone. The violence is explosive not outlandish but exciting. When the characters become so desperate they have no other choice but to start pulling out guns. There are no epic shootouts--just bang bang get away which makes those few moments tense. You don’t know who’s going make it. But while the dealer’s perspective is different it’s still not as interesting as users’ films such as Trainspotting or Requiem for a Dream. It’s more like a TV show the daily grind of being a pusher. There are two more films in the trilogy so perhaps we’ll see just how tense things get for these characters moving forward.