Pusher II review by Matt Fuerst
Checking my Jackass Critics e-mail a week ago, I had the usual. Penis pill spam, porno spam, sports betting spam. I guess it's the price I pay for ordering a blow up doll one night after losing $2000 on Party Poker. But, unsolicited, was an offer for review copies of the Pusher Trilogy. What's this? Sequels to Pusher? "Sign me up, good man!" I says to my new PR/Marketing friend. I should mention that betwixt my Pusher experience and today, I saw director Nicholas Winding Refn's Fear X and thought it was one of the most brilliant movies I have ever seen. Pusher and Fear X in the bank, I was eagerly looking forward to Pusher II and Pusher III both helmed by Refn.
Sadly, I was kicked right in the jimmy stick by Pusher II. Pusher II is the story of Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen), a small time thug and druggie just released from prison. Tonny returns to his businessman / bigger-time-thug father and asks for a role in the organization, an offer the father hesitantly accepts. Tonny, unreformed and dumb as most small time hoods are, continues on his merry way of stupidity. He steals a Ferrari as a "Thank You" present for his father, whom is known in criminal circuits as "The Duke". Needless to say, daddy doesn't appreciate a high profile quarter million dollar piece of stolen goods sitting in his garage and nearly pummels Tonny to death for his "gift". Tonny descent into further idiocy continues with drugs, drug deals gone bad, guns and robberies.
All this on the surface is fairly interesting stuff, although it's all done better in numerous other movies. The bad part is that this is just the glossy surface to the story that Refn is really trying to tell, and that's the story of a son struggling for his fathers acceptance. Yeah, if you're like me, you're ready to hit the snooze button and roll back into the wet spot on your bed for a few more minutes of sleepy time. Tonny is apparently really torn up about the fact his father is a dick, and didn't give him enough love (Tonny's heartbreak isn't really delved into, so it could well be that Tonny was abused as a child, or his dad never let him eat dessert, or any host of atrocities). Refn apparently didn't think that the dialogue and actions of Tonny and Father would be enough to drive this theme home, so he introduces elements into the story to really emphasize it. "The Duke" has a very young child from a new marriage. "The Duke" loves his new son without fail, and Refn drives this all home with shots of Tonny looking longingly while "The Duke" fawns over "The Duke Jr" (alright I made that name up). Not to leave you catching this Father-Son dynamic to chance, Refn introduces "the woman" into Tonny's "crack ho one night stand". During his solo horizontal mombo with this chick, Tonny decided not to "pull out", so after a few years in the pokey, surprise! Tonny's a daddy. So... that's really the skinny here. We've got what's sold as a crook movie, but in reality is a sappy father-son melodrama with a son too closed off to speak and an asshole father.
As I'm sure you've deduced by now, I wasn't particularly in love with Pusher II. It's perfectly fine to make a gangster movie that's not actually a gangster movie. I'm cerebral enough to handle it (I think). But I think Refn overplays his hand here and really takes us over the edge. He hammers home his point, then introduces another element to hammer it home again. Good god man, I'm not a pegboard! Lay off me! The other technical elements of the movie are well done. Refn uses lighting and colors in very interesting ways. In Fear X he does so to amazing results, but he plays Pusher II a little straighter (reasonably so). I found the introductory credit sequence to be particularly stunning and memorable.
I can't imagine anyone particularly loving Pusher II. I'm going to recommend skipping this one, but maybe Pusher III Refn returns to fine form, and keeps his script a little tighter. Magnolia Entertainment is releasing the Pusher Trilogy in New York for a theatrical release, and I would imagine they would be fun to see on the big screen.
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