Pusher 3 is the culmination(?) of Nicolas Winding Refn's trilogy surrounding the seedy underbelly of Copenhagen's drug trade and the criminals and gangsters who populate it. Pusher 4 is apparently a possibility too. This time the focus is on Milo (Zlatko Buric), the high-level drug dealer first seen in Pusher and in a cameo role in Pusher 2 that takes center stage. Pusher 3 takes place in a changing Copenhagen, though the passage of time between movies is unspecified. I get the feeling that at least 10 years has passed since Pusher 2. Milo is attempting to stay clean while still dealing drugs as he prepares for his daughter's 25th birthday party. While preparing for the big day a shipment arrives for Milo, but it's ecstasy, not heroin. Milo reluctantly allows the presumptuously self-proclaimed "king of Copenhagen" Little Muhammed (Ilyas Agac) to sell the pills for him in bulk since Milo doesn't know anything about ecstasy. But when Little Muhammed doesn't return, Milo is left with no drugs and an outstanding debt to a fellow drug dealer. It's a remarkably similar situation that Frank found himself in in the original Pusher, only now Milo is on the receiving end.
It's made evident that Milo is an analogue player in a digital world in Pusher 3. Go back to the original Pusher and Milo was the feared kingpin of the local drug trade, but now, 10 or maybe even 20 years later and Milo finds himself being pushed into subservience by other criminals that have moved into the area. Little Muhammed spells it out for Milo that he is the future, the new generation, and that 'they' outnumber him now. I'm assuming that Little Muhammed meant Muslims, because Milo is an immigrant as well. So I don't think it was a locals vs immigrants thing, I think it was more of a old vs new thing. The escalating pressure of Milo's situation, both personal and professional pushes him past his breaking point and Milo succumbs to temptation with disastrous results. Spoilers for Pusher 1 and 2 ahead.
If you've seen Pusher 1 and 2, then Pusher 3 is more of the same aesthetically, it's the same hand-held verite style that I've become accustomed to. There's no big surprises or improvements, I did the like the ability to capture Milo's frenetic moods and struggles with long takes, good acting and an inspired score. I do like how this anthology focuses on one character and on humanizing them while still weaving a thread between all three movies. It's not always the same thread, but the connections are there, and they feel real. Like real characters, real people you might meet, though generally wouldn't want to.
Radovan (Slavko Labovic) returns as Milo's friend and loyal partner in crime, only now he's fulfilled his dream of running his own restaurant like he described to Frank in Pusher. Little Muhammed is a recurring character from Pusher 2 who sold Tonny the gun after a bit of bartering. "Kurt the Cunt" (Kurt Nielsen) returns after he deserted Tonny in Pusher 2 with his debts. The ex-wife Jeanette (Linse Kessler) of The Duke (Leif Sylvester) from Pusher 2 now returns as a brothel owner who's in the market for some new girls. This is the same Jeanette that Tonny was supposed to kill and is also a son to The Duke as seen in Pusher 2. It's all this history between them all that brings a nice sense of familiarity and exemplary world building to the Pusher franchise. To my mind the Pusher trilogy is only structurally comparable to the Blue, White and Red trilogy, and even then they're considerably different, but still somewhat similar.
Pusher 3 is easily the most casually violent of the trilogy, but as with all the Pusher movies, we're left with more questions than we're given answers. If Pusher 4 was to go ahead, I'd like to see more of an effort to bring all these plot threads together somehow. What happened to Frank? Did he get away or was he murdered? Did Tonny become a good father or did he fail at that too? What happened to Little Muhammed? What would have happened to Milo after the events of Pusher 3? Surely there had to be some repercussions coming his way? So many things to potentially explore in the future, but knowing Nicolas Winding Refn, he'd probably go off on some other tangential character.
Either way, Pusher 3 was a fascinating and scary look into the life of a desperate old-time criminal who lives in a world where everybody's trying to fuck everybody over and no one ever really wins. It's a sobering look at the life they choose, or were unfortunately born into. Milo seemed like the sort of guy who really didn't want to resort to violence, but this is the life. High-level gangsters are often portrayed as sociopaths and maniacs who enjoy doing what they do on some level, but Milo seemed to genuinely regret what people often make him do. I still don't think that Milo was an anti-hero of some sort ala Tony Soprano or Walter White who both had redeeming qualities despite their line of work. Milo was conniving and cunning, as he probably had to be, but if he ever says that you're "his friend", then you're fucked. I still wonder if Milo deliberately got one of his associates to purposefully arrive late to the meeting to try get "Kurt the Kunt" to flush the drugs, just for giggles. If that is the case, then Milo is more evil than I give him credit for. Overall though, Pusher 3 is probably my second favorite movie in what's been a consistently strong trilogy. I wonder why it seemingly hasn't been as widely recognized as some other foreign trilogies have been.
Written by - The Sentry - 15/09/2016