Nicolas Winding Refn seems to have gone back to his roots, signing on as exec producer of this Brit remake of his cult crimer debut.
In shifting turf to an East London well trodden by Guy Ritchie and his many imitators, Prieto loses the unique edge of the Danish version, which revealed a skanky Copenhagen underbelly few knew existed.
Pusher 2012 sticks closely to the original plot, offering old-school Refn fans few surprises but managing a solid, adrenaline-paced retool of a stock crim-against-the-clock tale.
Richard Coyle brings a more refined, upmarket feel and an appealing jaded wryness to the role of small-time dealer Frank.
Shared with comic sidekick Tony (Bronson Webb) and girlfriend Flo (Agyness Deyn, too clean-cut to seem credible as a pole-dancer and occasional trick-turner), Frank’s semi-glam lifestyle – flashy nightclubs and easy cash – seems almost enviable.
But it’s a steep drop into nightmarish desperation after his get-rich-quick scam goes pear-shaped.
When police bust the deal, he’s forced to throw a kilo of coke in a pond, leaving him dangerously in debt to Serbian gang boss Milo.
With an image of a knee-capped debtor planted in his mind by Milo’s henchman, Frank reels into escalating violence to meet the two-day deadline.
Some of his volcanic outbursts, played scene-for-scene with the original, seem out of keeping with this more reserved English incarnation.
But frenetic camerawork and a pulsing electronic Orbital soundtrack sweep us along with the mounting panic, and we root for him even as he succumbs to the underworld’s nihilistic amorality.
But it’s Zlatko Buric as Milo, reprising his role from Pusher ’96, who steals the film. As his jovial indulgence of Frank turns to reluctant ruthlessness, it’s a stark lesson that in this world, supreme loyalty is reserved for money.
Banking on exec-producer Refn’s name, this glossy dealer-in-debt remake gets plenty right but lacks the hard-hitting vibe of the cult original, or a fresh take on gangster-pic London.