Less a bastardization than simply a watered-down and superfluous redo, Pusher faithfully mimics Nicolas Winding Refn's 1996 Danish crime saga while missing its nasty, grungy spirit. Luis Prieto's London-set remake substitutes techno sleaze for Refn's heavy-metal grime in retelling the tale of Frank (Richard Coyle), a low-level drug dealer who finds himself deep in debt to kingpin Milo (Zlatko Buric) after a deal goes wrong and he winds up with neither coke nor cash. It's a frenzied descent into direness that Prieto handles with considerable flash and affection for his characters, who here have had their sharp edges sanded smooth. That's truest of Frank, altered from an amoral cretin to a cockier and sympathetic antihero, as well as of his best friend Tony (Bronson Webb), re-imagined as a spastic wild man who pales in comparison to Mads Mikkelsen's original head-tattooed psychopath. That shift doesn't detract from the full-throttle intensity of Prieto's direction so much as sap the material of its primal ugliness—except in the case of the outstanding Buric, who, reprising his role from Refn's film, remains a figure of hilarious, terrifying beastliness.
Coyle wades in too deep.
Opens Fri., Oct. 26 at Sundance Cinemas. Rated R. 87 minutes.