Starring Richard Coyle, Bronson Webb. Written by Matthew Read. Directed by Luis Prieto. STC. 87 min. Opens Nov. 9.
Before he started his very fruitful collaboration with Ryan Gosling on Drive and next year’s Only God Forgives, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn earned major props from fans of the rough stuff with The Pusher Trilogy, a lean, mean, and increasingly vicious trio of crime thrillers that was launched with 1996’s Pusher. Sixteen years after his debut feature became a cult hit, Winding Refn signed on as executive producer for this English-language remake. Unfortunately, the result has a whiff of self-indulgence, seeing as Winding Refn may be one of the few people who won’t deem this retread entirely redundant.
The guts of the plot remain the same, with English actor Richard Coyle now assuming the role of this story’s excuse for a hero: a small-time drug dealer who gets in a serious bind over the course of several stressful days. The action has been transplanted from Copenhagen to London, where Frank (Coyle) races to raise the cash he needs to make good with his boss, a pastry-obsessed Serbian gangster by the name of Milo (Zlatko Burić).
Enlisting Burić to reprise the part he played so memorably in Winding Refn’s trilogy is one of the few smart moves in director Luis Prieto’s makeover. Adding some depth to the character of Frank’s stripper girlfriend, Flo (British supermodel turned actress Agyness Deyn), brings nuance to the less frantic moments, too. Yet the movie otherwise fails to replicate the original’s momentum due to other, more needless tweaks, the excessively slick visuals, and an overabundance of the generic Cockney-thug dialogue and stock characters that have been rife in British crime flicks since Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels hit big. Whether they’re devotees of the original or newcomers to the tale, viewers may feel fed up with Pusher well before Frank finally exhausts Milo’s patience.