Tag: mads mikkelsen

MOVIE REVIEW | ***FOREIGN LANGUAGE WEEKEND*** Pusher (1996)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “A really impressive effort from a first time director.”

Pusher-2010
The main reason I started this blog was to make me watch more movies, and to vary the kinds of movies I watched. The first part of that has been well and truly accomplished with me watching hundreds of movies for the first time, instead of falling back on old favourites over and over again.   But l’m not sure if I’ve varied my selections enough. I still watch mainly American movies, with directors, writers and actors that make them a pretty safe bet. So this year, I’m forcing myself to seek out more international movies. With Foreign Language Weekends, every weekend(ish) during 2016, I’ll review two(ish) non-English language movies.

“For instance, there was this Turkish guy once. He fucked up and owed Milo some money. So I went over to his place. I’d been there many times before, asking for the money in a polite way, without any luck. Finally, I took a knife, stabbed it in his kneecap and teared the shit up. Sometimes, I’d like to have another job. Believe me.”

Before scoring a massive, mainstream hit full of Gosling goodness with Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn directed one of the most mind blowing movies I’ve stumbled across in recent years with Bronson (it’s like Chopper…  If the main character was more insane, more violent, more darkly hilarious and based just as much on a real world figure.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen Bronson, you really should).  But before that, and whole lot of other stuff, Nicolas Winding Refn kicked off his career with Pusher.


As the title suggests, this is all about the world of drug dealing.  Kim Bodnia plays Franky, a low level Copenhagen dealer who’ll sell whatever he can his hands on to make a buck and fund his own habit, as well as drinking and hanging out with his partner Tonny, played Mads Mikkelsen.   Franky already owes Milo, his local wholesaler of the hard stuff, 50,000 kroner, until the promise of one big sale to an ex-prison buddy puts him closer to 300,000 in debt.

Soon, Franky is going from one end of Copenhagen to the other, trying to call in money owed to him, borrow more, make deals and do anything he can to pay his debts and save his life.  I don’t think it’s any accident on the part of the screenplay that almost every “deal” is done on credit.  Constantly Franky and others buy and sell everything from drugs, to firearms, to mobile phones, and on almost every occasion, when it’s time for money to change hands, the buyer is asking for credit with a promise to pay soon.  It’s like the entire black economy of the movie is nothing more than numbers floating in the air, based on and handshakes and promises.  Which makes it only hit harder when the very real, very mortal consequences begin to bare down on Bodina’s Franky.

One thing I really liked about Pusher is its objectivity.  This is no cautionary tale about the pitfalls of a life of crime or drug use.  But at the same time, it’s in no way a glorification of any of that either.  It looks like an accurate, fly on the wall account of people doing a particular job and the bullshit that comes with it.  Well, it looks accurate to my white bread, suburban, upper working / lower middle class eyes, anyway.  Franky is never portrayed as a hero or tragic victim.  He’s a man doing what he thinks needs to be done it.  He’s not misunderstood, he’s not struggling with any inner demons, he’s just dealing with decisions he’s made and the consequences that come with them.

As pretentious as it may sound to say, the camera really is almost its own character in Pusher.  Constantly in motion, even when the characters it’s shooting are not, the camera work goes beyond hand held.  Almost every single scene starts and finishes with the camera following someone in and out of the given location.  This might be one of the only movies I’ve ever seen where we see characters’ backs almost as much as their faces.  But this non-stop motion really does add to the movie, making the viewer almost as anxious and on edge as Franky when the walls start to close in around him.

Pusher

This is a really impressive effort from a first time director and you can see hints of where he was headed with something like Drive more than fifteen years later.  And maybe the Scandinavian setting, characters and costumes threw me off, but it doesn’t look fifteen years at old at all, it has aged really well.  Seriously though, if you haven’t seen Bronson, see it first.  Then give Pusher a go if you have time.

(Review originally posted Aug 5, 2013)

Pusher
Directed By – Nicolas Winding Refn
Written By – Jens Dahl, Nicolas Winding Refn

MOVIE REVIEW | Valhalla Rising (2009)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “This is the kind of movie where the hero disembowels someone with an arrow head as slowly and deliberately as possible, to inflict maximum pain and misery, on his victim and the audience.”

Valhalla 1
I once met man who told me… they eat their own God… Eat his flesh. Drink his blood.

So there I was, aimlessly scrolling through Netflix in the ‘International Movies’ category, hoping to find something to write about for Bored and DangerousForeign Movie Weekends, when I stumbled across Valhalla Rising.  It was in the International category, and it starred Mads Mikkelsen.  More than enough to make me think it would fit the non-English speaking bill.  But when the opening titles began to roll, they were in English.  I was bummed, until I saw the name Nicolas Winding Refn appear.

He is one modern director who really fascinated me.  His Pusher trilogy might not be amazing, but it’s an awesome showcase of a young film maker growing, learning and evolving.  Bronson on the other hand is flat out amazing.  While Only God Forgives was at least interestingly ambitious.  Even the one movie of his I don’t like, Drive, seems like something I need to revisit to see if I was wrong.  So, it may not have been for the reason that made me choose it, but seconds into watching, I was excited about what might be on offer, with Valhalla Rising.

As Christianity makes its way across Scotland, the ancient Celtic tribes are under threat.  But instead of worrying about that, one particular tribe spends its time making prisoners fight each other to the death.  Their reigning champ, nick named One-Eye (Mikkelsen), spends his time fighting, performing forced, hard labor to stay fighting fit, or locked in a cage.  But when a premonition leads him to finding a discarded arrow head, it’s all One-Eye needs to break free and kill the entire tribe, accept for one young boy (Maarten Stevenson) who was the only one to ever show any kindness.

When they stumble cross a group of Christian Crusaders, the mute One-Eye lets The Boy speak for them both.  Either saying whatever he thinks he needs to so they can survive, or possibly sharing an unspoken connection with One-Eye, The Boy is able to relay a story that sees them accepted by the Christians.  Soon, they’re all aboard a boat, headed for Jerusalem to take back the Holy Land.

The IMDB trivia page for Valhalla Rising says that it has approximately 120 lines of dialogue.  Even at that low number I think that approximation might be a little on the high side.  This movie is all foreboding atmosphere and threatening dread.  One-Eye might be the only actual mute, but every character is frugal when it comes to opening their traps.  A well deployed scowl or raised eyebrow says more than words ever could.

Winding Refn is a definite stylist.  A lot of shots in his movies look like he came up with a cool visual first, then retro fitted a story so he had an excuse to frame it.  Usually, that’s the kind of style over substance film making that would immediately turn me off a director.  But there’s something in the way he executes his style over substance that makes me always find Winding Refn exciting, and never too showy for the sake of being showy.
Valhalla 2
And it’s a showiness that I think you need when dealing with a movie as filled with brutality as Valhalla Rising.  This is the kind of movie where the hero disembowels someone with an arrow head as slowly and deliberately as possible, to inflict maximum pain and misery, on his victim and the audience.  Like his borderline overbearing visual flare, that kind of graphic, usually pointless gore, is the kind of thing that would normally turn me off a movie.  But there’s something about the way Nicolas Winding Refn deploys his gore, violence and style, that hits me just right almost every time.

Valhalla Rising
Directed By – Nicolas Winding Refn
Written By – Nicolas Winding Refn, Roy Jacobsen

Other Opinions Are Available. What did these people have to say about Valhalla Rising?
Slant Magazine
The Guardian
Liusviews

MOVIE REVIEW | Pusher 2 (2004)

pusher2
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.


Pusher 2

Directed By – Nicolas Winding Refn
Written By – Nicolas Winding Refn

MOVIE REVIEW | Pusher (1996)

Pusher-2010

Before scoring a massive, mainstream hit full of Gosling goodness with Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn directed one of the most mind blowing movies I’ve stumbled across in recent years with Bronson (it’s like Chopper…  If the main character was more insane, more violent, more darkly hilarious and based just as much on a real world figure.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen Bronson, you really should).  But before that, and whole lot of other stuff, Nicolas Winding Refn kicked off his career with Pusher.


As the title suggests, this is all about the world of drug dealing.  Kim Bodnia plays Franky, a low level Copenhagen dealer who’ll sell whatever he can his hands on to make a buck and fund his own habit, as well as drinking and hanging out with his partner Tonny, played Mads Mikkelsen.   Franky already owes Milo, his local wholesaler of the hard stuff, 50,000 kroner, until the promise of one big sale to an ex-prison buddy puts him closer to 300,000 in debt.

Soon, Franky is going from one end of Copenhagen to the other, trying to call in money owed to him, borrow more, make deals and do anything he can to pay his debts and save his life.  I don’t think it’s any accident on the part of the screenplay that almost every “deal” is done on credit.  Constantly Franky and others buy and sell everything from drugs, to firearms, to mobile phones, and on almost every occasion, when it’s time for money to change hands, the buyer is asking for credit with a promise to pay soon.  It’s like the entire black economy of the movie is nothing more than numbers floating in the air, based on and handshakes and promises.  Which makes it only hit harder when the very real, very mortal consequences begin to bare down on Bodina’s Franky.

One thing I really liked about Pusher is its objectivity.  This is no cautionary tale about the pitfalls of a life of crime or drug use.  But at the same time, it’s in no way a glorification of any of that either.  It looks like an accurate, fly on the wall account of people doing a particular job and the bullshit that comes with it.  Well, it looks accurate to my white bread, suburban, upper working / lower middle class eyes, anyway.  Franky is never portrayed as a hero or tragic victim.  He’s a man doing what he thinks needs to be done it.  He’s not misunderstood, he’s not struggling with any inner demons, he’s just dealing with decisions he’s made and the consequences that come with them.

As pretentious as it may sound to say, the camera really is almost its own character in Pusher.  Constantly in motion, even when the characters it’s shooting are not, the camera work goes beyond hand held.  Almost every single scene starts and finishes with the camera following someone in and out of the given location.  This might be one of the only movies I’ve ever seen where we see characters’ backs almost as much as their faces.  But this non-stop motion really does add to the movie, making the viewer almost as anxious and on edge as Franky when the walls start to close in around him.

This is a really impressive effort from a first time director and you can see hints of where he was headed with something like Drive more than fifteen years later.  And maybe the Scandinavian setting, characters and costumes threw me off, but it doesn’t look fifteen years at old at all, it has aged really well.  Seriously though, if you haven’t seen Bronson, see it first.  Then give Pusher a go if you have time.


Directed By – Nicolas Winding Refn
Written By – Jens Dahl, Nicolas Winding Refn