Published Sep 07, 2012A theory popular within the lexicon of film analysis – ostensibly, the sort of thing you'd find on an undergraduate film theory final exam – is that you can determine the quality and trajectory of a movie from the opening 30 seconds.
Sounds and images mix together with setting and aesthetic to give an impression of tone and style, signifying something ominous, heartfelt or light-hearted, amongst other things.
Pusher opens with loud, abrasive synth-pop, a flashing neon title and a montage of characters from the movie distinguished by freeze frame nameplates (like Trainspotting).
In short, this implies that the tone and style of the film are little more than posturing "look at me" artifice with a healthy dose of genre redundancy. And since the original Nicolas Winding Refn trilogy didn't exactly break new ground, despite having a solid central performance and good pace, there's no reason to believe that Luis Prieto's adaptation will defy this assumption.
Still, this theory has been disproven in the past, so who is to say that this crass opening and initial conversation between drug dealer Frank (Richard Coyle) and comic relief sidekick Tony (Bronson Webb) about a woman's ability to stuff a kilo of drugs up her "pussy" will define everything to come?
Unfortunately, after an hour-and-a-half of watching Frank run around frantically trying to earn, steal and extort money from various acquaintances and clients in an effort to pay off drug lord Milo (Zlatko Buric) after a drug deal goes bad, nothing new is gained.
We learn the lesson that drugs are bad and that karma's a bitch while holding in laughter when Frank's drug addict stripper girlfriend (Agyness Deyn) tearfully defends her dignity by stating, "I'm not a whore."
In the midst of this, an array of club scenes, needle shots, cocaine snorts, camera tricks and profanity keeps everything moving forward in exactly the way anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of cinema would expect. Sure, there's some breast shots and the occasional music video insert of rotting animals and cooked heroin, but it's all just filler for a story that's been told a thousand times with the exact same moral compass.
Apparently, the actual lesson here is that a movie about vile, contemptible people that indulge in every id impulse has to itself be vile, contemptible and, ultimately, empty. (eOne)