Over the course of almost ten years and three movies, director Nicolas Winding Refn showed a real, tangible evolution as a film maker and story teller with his Danish Pusher trilogy. In 1996’s Pusher, it was all selfishness, narcissism and badass style. In 2004, Pusher 2 showed he could bring real characters with real emotions and depth to the series. Then, a year later, Pusher 3 upped the anti again.
Milo, played by Zlatko Buric, was the antagonist of the first movie. He showed up for one short, but pivotal scene in the second, and is now the main character of the third. Until now, he has been the highest ranking of the small time dealers in the Pusher world. He’s the wholesaler who has the big bricks that the lower level dealers will break up into little plastic bags. But Pusher 3 is about the next level up, who wholesales to the wholesaler and who does he answer to?
The original Pusher confined the story to one very clearly depicted week. While it’s not as definite as the first, Pusher 2 seems to be have been condensed to just a few days. Winding Refn gets even more microscopic with Pusher 3, confining the entire story to just one day. A day the starts with Milo at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting before heading to a drug deal where it turns out he’s bought a butt load of ecstasy instead of the butt load of heroin he was expecting. Like the movies that preceded it, Pusher 3 shows the quickly unravelling efforts of a man getting increasingly desperate as he tries to fix one mistake, with every short term solution escalating into bigger, more dangerous problems.
The original was all about one selfish man and how his decisions affected him. Pusher 2 widened the perspective to show the effects its characters actions had on the innocents around them. Pusher 3 brings it back to mainly one man, but this time, the story starts with a character who’s already seeking some kind of redemption. Milo has already learned from his mistakes, he just hasn’t learned quite enough yet to avoid what will go down on this one, horrifically eventful night.
Like the two before, the third film in the trilogy finishes on a maddeningly ambiguous, yet perfect note. We’ll never know what ultimately happened to Pusher’s Franky, outside of one quick line of dialogue that all but dismisses him in the sequel. Is Tonny from Pusher 2 living the quiet life of a suburban dad? Where will Milo go after the events of Pusher 3? It doesn’t matter. None of these films are concerned about wrapping their stories up with a neat bow. They’re about what happens when these characters make one mistake that spirals out of control and how they handle it in the short term. Real life doesn’t have a neat ending to every story, and neither does Nicolas Winding Refn.
This is a great final installment to a really interesting and complex series that only got more interesting and complex with each addition. But seriously, I’ll say it again, as good as this series is, you really need to see Bronson. Even if you have, watch it again, then give the Pusher movies a go.