‘Pusher’ Review: Remake Guilty of Lack-of-Substance Abuse

"Pusher,” an English-language remake of a 1996 Danish cult film, is slick but unnecessary

Like Kleenex or cheap plastic razors, there are movies that are instantly disposable.

“Pusher,” an English-language, unnecessary remake of the identically titled 1996 Danish cult film from “Drive” director Nicholas Winding Refn (he subsequently made two “Pusher” sequels), is exactly that.

Watching this slick bit of familiar crime drama effluvia, one has the sense of having sat through this exact same movie way too many times before. The odd part, though, is that while “Pusher” is nearly beat-for-beat a remake of Refn’s movie, it’s more reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s early films with its cast of scruffy London low-lifes.

“Pusher” follows a week in the increasingly desperate life of Frank (Richard Coyle), a smalltime London drug dealer hoping for a big score. To that end, he gets a brick of cocaine on credit from Milo (Zlatco Buric, amusingly old world), the neighborhood crime lord. Before Frank can pay Milo back, however, his own intended deal goes south when the police interrupt the buy. Frank flees, dumping the coke in a river as he attempts to escape the police.

Frank now owes big money to Milo for the missing drugs and spends most of the rest of the movie trying to raise it any way he can, including borrowing from his own impoverished mum. As the deadline for paying Milo back looms, Frank comes to realize that there’s no one — not even his hanger-on best friend (Bronson Webb) or girlfriend (model Agyness Deyn) — on whom he can really count.

This “Pusher,” as directed by Spanish-born Luis Prieto (he previously directed a couple of Italian features), is all style, no substance. With the exception of a scene in which Milo and his cronies wax rhapsodic over a plate of freshly made sweets, there’s nothing distinctive about any of the characters or scenes.

Coyle gives a solid performance, convincingly showing Frank’s growing panic as the noose around his neck tightens, and Buric displays a certain wily charm along with the menace as the drug kingpin. Deyn, based on her stilted playing here of Frank’s stripper girlfriend ­– c’mon guys, surely, her character could just as easily have been a waitress or a store clerk — is yet another model who probably should stick to the runway and still photo shoots.

To close out on a positive note, “Pusher” has a running time of only 89 minutes. (The movie, which opens theatrically on Friday, has been available via VOD since late last month.)