When the end credits roll on 1996’s Pusher, there’s no concrete answer to what might have happened to main protagonist, Franky. It’s a frustrating, yet somehow perfect, way to finish that story. When director and this time sole writer Nicolas Winding Refn returned to this world with Pusher 2 eight years later, Franky’s fate is still frustratingly, yet perfectly, left up in the air. Not only does Franky never appear in the sequel, his entire character is reduced to one line of almost thrown away dialogue. Pusher 2 is all about his sidekick, the promoted to main character Tonny, played by Mads Mikkelsen.
Written out of the first movie soon after the halfway mark thanks to a baseball bat to the head, the character of Tonny was pretty one dimensional. He was the loser best friend, a bit dumber and a bit more short sighted than main character Franky. In Pusher 2, Winding Refn’s script and Mikkelsen’s performance round Tonny out to be a much deeper, well formed character who proves himself more than up to the job of carrying the story.
Mikkelsen begins the movie in prison, serving out the last days of a sentence and already on the back foot, thinking about how he can pay off his prison debts once on the outside. On release, Mikkelsen goes straight to his father, local small time crime boss, known to everyone, even his son, as, The Duke. The Duke obviously gave up on any hope for his son amounting to anything a long time ago and only agrees to give him a job after Mikkelsen is reduced to all but begging for another chance.
Throughout the movie, almost everything Mikkelsen does only reiterates his father’s negative attitude and proves what a loser he really is. While the original focused mainly on Franky and his drug trade colleagues, Pusher 2 shows the effects their choice of profession has on the people who never got to choose to be a part of this world, their kids. Constantly, adult characters are doing drugs (hard and soft) in front of children, talking about horrible things and generally being the worst influence possible. The role of parents, especially fathers, is a major theme, with Tonny dealing with daddy issues from both ends. He’s still trying to gain his father’s approval while also figuring out how to be a father to his own son, born while he was in prison.
Another difference between this and the original Pusher is the momentum of the story. The original builds and builds on each mistake, decision and action Franky takes until they all add together to become one massive, seemingly unavoidable obstacle. In Pusher 2, the real cause of Tonny’s ultimate possible downfall comes down to one split second decision, initiated by a simple knock on the door of a hotel room. That’s it, one instant, one quick decision and his whole world comes crashing down.
Pusher 2 manages to keep all the visceral, violent impact of what came before, but it also shows Winding Refn’s changing of priorities as a film maker and story teller, relying much more on character and emotion, than guns and action. Which you can see done even more effectively in Bronson. Seriously, you should really watch Bronson.
Directed By – Nicolas Winding Refn
Written By – Nicolas Winding Refn