Frank is a drug pusher on the roll, until he makes a huge deal with dope that he hasn't payed for, and he gets busted by the police.
It is a truism of 90S filmmaking that drugs, violence and a little stylish cinematography do no longer a classic make. But what Danish filmmaker Nicholas Wending Refn has cannily done here is give the well-worn drugs and gangs routine a unique slant in a story that is more an unsettling Kafkaesque nightmare than a drugs-arc-ace fairy tale. Frank (Bodnia) and his mate Tony (Mikkelson) run a flourishing business keeping Copenhagen's junkies in heroin. But when an old friend from inside turns up to offer Frank an excellent deal, he finds himself set up and busted by the cops.
Released because there is insufficient evidence to prosecute, Frank is thrown into deeper trouble as he must find double the money he originally outlaid to pay back his sinister supplier Milo (Buric) or face execution. Refn uses disorientating hand¬held camera shots and minimal grey¬ish lighting to create Frank's dirty and damp claustrophobic world of backstreets, car parks and corridors.
The obligatory torture scene is not startlingly complex and original but chillingly executed in the mob chief's front room. Inevitably, it's not a good day for people's fingers. We have been here before and more memorably in True Romance with Christopher Walken and much stronger dialogue.
But despite the gritty subject matter, combined with some clichéd set pieces, interest is retained right through to the bleak end, largely due to the direction and Refn's handling of the excellent cast.
Pusher may be an old tale (and one which has been told more eloquently) but it is an engrossing one nonetheless.