Originally released nearly a decade ago in its native Denmark, Pusher is a breathtaking film. Planned as an independent, no-budget feature by director Nicolas Winding Refn, the project changed shape when Balboa Films offered him financing: Gone are the 16mm film and the amateur actors, replaced by vivid color and seasoned professionals. What remains, however, is Refn's sensibility, and the resulting work -- his feature debut as a director -- is an enthralling combination of the shocking, the sensational and the matter-of-fact.
Pusher tells the story of a terrible week in the life of Frank (Kim Bodnia), a small-time drug dealer. When times are good, Frank spends almost all of his time with Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen), his right-hand man and apparent best friend; Tonny is the classic street tough who looks much harder -- manic grin, "RESPECT" tattooed on the back of his shaved head -- than he acts. On the best of days, the two drive around laughing, talking about women and selling drugs to people so beaten-down they live in terror of displeasing Frank and Tonny; on the worst days, there is bloodshed, fear and betrayal. As the week begins, the friends go about their everyday business, doing deals here and there and traveling the city like care-free kids, joking and taking real pleasure in their mutual friendship. In addition to working as a unit, the two party together as well, boozing with the same good-humored grumbling that helps them through the day.