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Originally published Monday, October 29, 2012 at 9:36 AM

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'Pusher': Remake of drug-dealer-in-debt thriller pops

A movie review of "Pusher," a straight, no-chaser thriller about a drug dealer (played by Richard Coyle) in debt.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Movie review 3 stars

'Pusher,' with Richard Coyle, Agyness Deyne, Zlatko Buric, Mem Ferda, Bronson Webb. Directed by Luis Prieto, from a screenplay by Matthew Read. 88 minutes. Rated R for pervasive drug content and language, some strong sexuality, nudity and violence. Sundance Cinemas.

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"Pusher" is a straight, no-chaser thriller set on the bottom rung of the drug-trade ladder. A remake of a 1996 Danish thriller, it's a pulsating, propulsive and nerve-wracking film that breathes new life into a genre whose tropes wore out long ago.

The settings — strip clubs, back alleys where deals are made and swank apartments where high-rolling London junkies hide their cash in microwave safes and snort cocaine off their omnipresent glass tables.

The characters — a pusher in over his head, his mouthy friend, his stripper-junkie girlfriend, the "mule" about to run to "the 'Dam" (Amsterdam) for him and the Middle Eastern muscle that expects payment for debts overdue.

Luis Prieto, working with producer Nicolas Winding Refn, who directed "Drive" and the original "Pusher," pushes the pace so that those over-familiar settings, situations and characters don't stand still long enough to grow stale.

British TV vet Richard Coyle is Frank, a low-rent drug dealer with a model-skinny girlfriend (Agyness Deyne) who pole dances at night and shoots up or snorts during the day. Frank's pal Tony (Bronson Webb) chatters away to one and all and stumbles into trouble from which Frank must rescue him.

Frank's a nice guy. But shortchange him, or threaten him or his friends, and he puts on his tough-guy face.

A deal that's too good to be true has Frank going into hock with his supplier pal, Milo, played with a malevolent brio by Zlatko Buric. Milo is a backslapping baklava lover, until Frank is late paying him back.

"Pusher" may be "Layer Cake" and a score of other got-to-get-the-money thrillers remade. But the unblinking, unglamorous world it captures, the fear that overcomes guilt and regret as Frank's debt takes on tragic consequences, make it pop and give this tired tale of the drug trade life anew.

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