The original Pusher is an amazing moving that’s relentlessly tense, but it wasn’t exactly calling for a remake. Not only was the original Pusher not that old, but what made it work was not it’s story – which is fine, but not ground breaking – but rather it’s execution, which really took you into the world of a low level drug dealer who was caught between a rock and a hard place. The risk of a remake, then, was that it would keep the story beats but fail to coat the film in the proper amount of griminess, robbing the story of what made it compelling.
Alas, that’s what happened. Look at the above still. Does he look like a cash-strapped thug who is on a desperate hustle to save his life? Does she look like a drug dependant hooker slash escort? No, they look like people who could be side characters in a Woody Allen film. All of the style choices in this film are too glossy, too clean cut, too well lit. The original worked because it took place in alleyways at night, but this one seems to be set in clean streets in daylight. It’s a world of difference.
Furthermore, I think the lead is miscast. The original Pusher was a guy who you could root for despite his faults; when his back was against the wall and he had to resort to more and more desperate measures just to survive you still rooted for him because you wanted him to survive. There was something pitiful about him that kept him from being sinister. In the remake, however, the Pusher has the smug face of a Bro, and although I think he does fine in selling a lot of the emotions his character goes through he never quite seems sympathetic. He’s too self assured to be pathetic; his posture is defiant enough that his humbling seems deserved. The fact that none of these actors seem to be down on their luck or starving changes how we feel about them to the detriment of the story.
Winner: The Cat