A gutter-level view of the Danish mean streets, director Nicolas Winding Refn’s searing “Pusher” trilogy is hard as slate “ echoing the works of Abel Ferrara, Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma, Refn’s merciless, artful character studies are a hellish triptych, up close and unavoidable. While Refn’s grungy aesthetic may be too much for some, this visceral trio of flicks comes highly recommended to fans of films that pull few punches.
Little-known stateside, Refn’s debut, “Pusher,” hits like a celluloid sledgehammer; following the hapless Frank (Kim Bodnia) during one of the worst weeks of his life, the viewer is sucked onto a roller coaster of drugs and violence, culminating in a grim, deliciously ambiguous finale. The bleak, bloodied epic continues in “Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands” (starring new Bond baddie Mads Mikkelsen) and “Pusher III: I’m The Angel of Death,” each of which, to great effect, focuses on peripheral characters from the first film.
Thankfully, all three films have been packaged together and while the non-anamorphic presentation of the first “Pusher” film is baffling, the second and third films are rendered in acceptable widescreen transfers, with Refn commentaries and behind-the-scenes documentaries completing the set.