Pusher (2000)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Kim Bodnia, Mads Mikkelsen
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Theatrical Trailer, TV Spot, Talent Files

’Pusher’ is an edgy film about a petty heroin dealer in Copenhagen and the depressing life he leads. Oh, and it’s in Danish. Although it was made before such similar movies as ’Go, ’ ’Run, Lola, Run,’ and ’Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,’ it is similar in its attempt to make the lives of small-time hoods seem somehow interesting. But, whereas these other films make good use of humor and raw energy to rise above their dark subject matter, ’Pusher’ sticks to its guns by ’keeping it real.’ In doing so, it makes for a very depressing, and not wholly enjoyable, experience.

’Pusher’ takes place over the course of one week in the life of Frank (Kim Bodnia), a small-time drug pusher. He starts the week making deals and talking sex with his buddy Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen). Later in the week his shot at a big deal goes sour and he winds up owing his supplier, Milo, a wad of cash that he doesn’t have. Somewhere in there he finds time to shoot up with his prostitute girlfriend, Vic, and beg his mother for money. Eventually, all hell breaks loose as Milo comes to collect.

The video is presented in an anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen version. Filmed entirely using handheld cameras, natural lighting, and real locations, the video is understandably not of the highest quality — accurately conveying the pseudo-documentary feel that director Nicolas Winding Refn wanted. The entire film is very grainy but color, sharpness, and black level are surprisingly good. The transfer itself is free from nicks, scratches, or other blemishes.

The audio comes in a Dolby Surround or very full-sounding 5.1 mix. Presented in its original Danish, the movie isn’t exactly dialogue driven and what phrases are spoken are so universal in their meaning that glancing at the English subtitles is almost an afterthought. The mix is very enveloping, but a bit harsh, with dynamic effects and a pulsing soundtrack that spread across all of the speakers. There isn’t much in the way of deep bass but on the whole the sound mix is in keeping with the film’s realistic intent and is quite good.

Surprisingly for such a low-key foreign film by a first-time director, ’Pusher’ is not lacking in extra features. First up is a running commentary featuring Nicolas Winding Refn and William Lustig. Best known for directing the cult classic, ’Maniac,’ William Lustig has been instrumental in Anchor Bay’s DVD committment and success. The track discusses how Lustig first discovered this film on a trip to London and soon befriended its young director — ultimately leading to the creation of this DVD. Next up is the 30-minute featurette ’On the Edge: Making ’Pusher’,’ which focuses on how the film came to be made in Denmark. Like the movie itself, it too is in Danish with English subtitles. Rounding out the extras are the theatrical trailer (again in Danish), a TV spot, and talent files for the stars and director.

I wanted very much to like ’Pusher’ as it does have some good performances and a very gritty, realistic feel. Perhaps it’s a little too real. In the saturated ’Look Ma, I’m a drug dealer’ film genre, it lacks that extra something needed to make it special. ’Pusher’ isn’t unwatchable, and even has some good moments, it just isn’t a particularly engaging story.