Tag: pusher trilogy

MOVIE REVIEW | Pusher 3 (2005)


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.

Pusher 3
Directed By – Nicolas Winding Refn
Written By – Nicolas Winding Refn

MOVIE REVIEW | Pusher 2 (2004)

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