Pusher 3: I'm The Angel Of Death (2005)
By: Mr Intolerance on April 22, 2009  | 
DVD
Accent (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). Danish DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 104 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Zlatko Buric, Slavko Labovic, Marinela Dekic
Screenplay: Nicolas Winding Refn
Country: Denmark
External Links
IMDB Rotten YouTube
"Do you see any heroes here?"

Now look – I haven't seen either of the first two films in this trilogy, so be kind to me if I make some stupid assertions that the first two films make kind of obvious. All I said to my boss was, "Hey, if there are any films that haven't been reviewed and have been sitting around for a while, well, hell, I'll review 'em." The fact that this one's R18 High Level Violence, Drug Use makes it all the sweeter – in the lucky dip of films, I came up trumps, if I can mix a metaphor. I love working for this website.

Milo, our portly, middle-aged wiry-haired anti-hero, is a drug dealer, and has been for many a year – loves his heroin, and likes to deal it, so imagine his rather annoyed surprise when he gets landed with a big score of ecstacy instead of horse. It's not what he wants and it's not exactly what his customers want, either. Milo has been a fixture on the drug scene of Copenhagen (and it certainly ain't the same city we got to see Danny Kaye poncing about in, in Hans Christian Andersen, that's for sure) for many a year, but he hasn't noticed how pills are taking over, and how heroin is on the wane. It's a rather ruthlessly competitive market out there kids, given this current global economic climate, and drug dealers, like any point of sale vendors, have been hit hard. Of any job, dealing is probably the most competitive, with the most risk involved, often for a minimal return or profit. Milo knows this, but has still not quite taken in the threat of the young fellas taking over his turf, despite the fact that he was one of those young fellas once himself. Old and complacent? Well, not exactly...

We start off with Milo at a drug-taker's version of AA (amusingly from my own context, I had a friend try to put me through AA about 5 years ago; I found the meeting sad and pitiable, as indeed I found it here, celebrating minor triumphs – not fucking up at work, say – like they were winning a Grand Prix or something), trying to go straight for his daughter's 25th birthday. He's got to cook for a lot of people and doesn't want to fall off the wagon.

So then, Milo's egocentric bitch of a daughter Milena is turning 25, and Milo is indeed cooking for her (although given the level of hygiene we see in his cafe's kitchen, I don't know as I'd be wanting to eat anything he'd prepared). She is a right mole, and that's putting it mildly – obviously used to the finer things, she treats regular folks like shit. Not to mention the fact that she takes her drug-dealer daddy for granted, and that's apparent from the word go – daddy can provide so he will provide, because she wants it, kind of like a grown up version of Veruca Salt. She's a dreadful cunt who you want dead as soon as you see her.

Anyhoo, Milo's a bit pissed off about being landed with a whole bunch of disco biscuits he has to off-load within a very quick time-frame. The young folks, dealer Luan and his off-sider and translator Rexho, seem to be playing him for the chump he ain't. Mind you, none of these guys seem to be especially loyal to each other anyway – Rexho isn't translating exactly what Luan says, obviously trying to line his own pockets at Luan's and Milo's expense. He employs one of his underlings, Muhammed, to sell the damn things off. Muhammed's all-too-eager to do so, given that he can get well in on the profit by even further bumping up the price – Luan suggested 10 krone a pill, Rexho "translated" that to Milo as 13, Milo tells Muhammed 15, but if Muhammed's going to wet his beak, the cost has to increase – mind you, as he's only fleecing raver-type chumps, who's really the victim?

Milo is finding his various deadlines hard and heads back to his N.A. Meeting – stress is starting to build up and he's not taking it well. Stress can make you misjudge things and make decisions you may not have the luxury of having time to regret, and it looks like Milo is just about to make one. His culinary skills have laid his various underlings low, and time keeps on tick-tick-ticking away, and so he has to rely on trust – considering the various folks in his trade, that may not exactly be the best of ideas.

Milo gets to the party on time, having found out something about Milena's partner Mike that he's not too keen on, and the family drama that's so common to gangster films unfolds a little more. This isn't the icy elegance of the Corleone family in their palatial mansions, involved in world politics, this is domestic drama on a small scale that regular folks like you and I can understand, even if the motivation is one that neither you or I share. The notion of family is still a universal one, regardless – and the sense of over-protectiveness that goes with it, while irrational from the outside, is still oddly understandable and quite credible. Just watch Milo's relationship with his daughter self-immolate – I told you she was a thankless, nasty piece of work.

What we do see by this point is that Milo has been progresively grasping at straws for the last twenty minutes or so of run-time, and that the sense of authority he seemd to possess at the beginning of the film is really starting to slip. It's probably worth mentioning the humour in the film at this point – it's not of the yukking it up school of comedy, more of the real-life things can go bad and from the outside it gives that sense of schadenfreude – there is humour present, but only in the same way it's present in real life. Don't expect any laugh-out loud moments, but there is some black comedy present, however you'll be measuring out the funnies with the pity in equal amounts, and remember that the whole thing is played out dead straight, if not actually dead-pan. This is more a tragedy than it is a comedy, and the things that might amuse you aren't the traditional stuff of comic fare.

Milo's will is starting to slip – it's oddly ironic watching a pusher, albeit one who's gone clean, get tempted by drugs, being pushed by another pusher; poetic justice anyone? At the same time, his grasp on things generally is slipping at a parallel rate. Hardened drug-pushing violent criminal or hen-pecked middle-aged dad? Column B is starting to outweigh Column A at an alarming rate – he's inefficacious in the extreme, but something still remains of the man he was.

In the face of possible retribution from Luan and Rexho, for a deal which Milo's been ripped off on by Muhammed, our boy has to enter into a deal which is obviously going to be a bad thing for all parties concerned. A metaphorical deal with the devil, basically. However, it becomes readily apparent that the new generation are gravely underestimating our boy, and their constant demands, albeit on a small scale, are starting to rankle with him VERY quickly – using his cafe/club as a base of operations for an underage prostitution ring is not something Milo's interested in; even slime-sucking drug-dealers have their moral sticking point, apparently. Tension builds very quickly at this point, too. Something has got to give, and by the way, we still haven't seen any of that High Level Violence the OFLC consumer advice was promising yet.

The last act of the film is well worth waiting for. Everything comes to a head, and if you haven't been interested in what's come before: a) you're an idiot with a 3 second attention-span, and b) the pay-off for this admittedly slow burn is right here. Milo's level of corruption, and his sense of right and wrong are writ large right about here (he's a dab hand with a claw-hammer, can I tell you); there's a lot of action packed into the last few scenes of Pusher 3: I'm the Angel of Death, let me tell you – revenge can be a beautiful, if somewhat gruesome, thing. Believe me, the vengeance lives up to the R18+ OFLC warning – it's nasty, cold, and like the rest of the film, visceral – think the scene in Beyond the Darkness when the protagonist opens up Cinizia Monreale yes, it's almost to that level of horribleness. Makes me want to go and watch the first two films in the series, though, just for the pure unstinting level of nastiness; the level of violence through "necessity" is something dreadful to behold. Don't fuck over the old guard, is what this film is saying. Don't make mistakes is another.

One interesting thing about the film is that Milo has only one day in which to off-load 10,000 ecstacy pills at a greatly over-inflated price, cook for his daughter's birthday, and do other various sundry gangster-style things – everything's crammed into an almost absurdly brief time-frame. Time is a constant motif in the film. Characters are constantly mentioning time, running late, looking at watches, talking about age – to my mind all adding up to time running out for Milo. At times he's a real source of menace, at others the younger characters seem almost openly contemptuous of him, calling him an old man, and even his off-sider Branko seems to molly-coddle him. This isn't a new idea in gangster films, that of the new trying to viciously undercut the old – Coppola's Godfather films tap into it (mainly due to the shifting focus of organised crime – the older families not wanting to get involved in drug-trafficking), Fulci's Contraband is all about it, Scorcese's Goodfellas is a more polished take on that same idea, Cronenberg's Eastern Promises is built on a similar premise. Here it's at much more of a street-level – let's face it: who's the target demographic for your wares? Young folks. Do young folks trust old folks? Nope. So if the young folks are taking all the risk and doing most of the actual work, surely it's natural that they'd want to make more cash and rise further up the underworld corporate ladder. And, given the way some of them go about it, with zero honour or any kind of integrity (drug-dealing would have to be the very definition of a dog-eat-dog profession after all), the chances of them making it to Milo's age would be about the same as Satan having to get to work on a snow-plow.

Another thing that's worthy of note is the film's attempt to present the story as a kind of cinema verite experience – there's an almost complete absence of a non-diagetic score, except at absolutely pivotal moments of the film (and even then, it's used sparingly), the camera work is unfortunately mainly (almost exclusively) hand-held, the sound and the lighting very naturalistic indeed. I don't know if director Refn was part of Lars Von Trier's Dogme '95 collective, but he's working from a similar base. This all adds up to a gritty, realistic cinematic punch in the face for the audience.
Video
As it's a reasonably recent film, the picture is clear and sharp, though obviously shot on video. The lighting seems quite naturalistic, not quite like that which you see in Lars Von Trier's Dogme '95 films, but not that different, either. The use of hand-held camera is something I find annoying, but I guess it's all part of adding to the verite of the film; trying to immerse you in the action. Personally, I'd prefer to observe these kind of things rather than be a participant.
Audio
Again, the director seems to have been going for a sort of verisimilitude, and natural sound seems to be the order of the day, presented to you in a 2.0 Danish audio track. Not everything that's said is subtitled – no, I don't speak Danish, but there are sequences of dialogue and asides delivered where we don't get to see little white letters at the bottom of the screen – someone appears to have decided what we need to know and what we don't. Still, the audio track suits the gritty realism of the film.
Extra Features
There are trailers for Pusher, Pusher 2 and Pusher 3. Not exactly the most imaginative extras package I've ever come across.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
I've mentioned a number of times above the gritty realism of this film; it's a gangster film on a street level, and it's all the better for it. It apes a lot of the bigger-scope gangster films of the 70s and 80s, but does so in a way that's much more understandable for the modern audience – the grandiose scope of the US gangster films is thankfully missing, and here you can see how the life of crime really affects people on an individual, if not actually personal, level. Definitely a film I think that y'all oughtta watch, Pusher 3: I'm The Angel of Death is a movie that works on both an exploitative (look at the title!) and an artistic level. It's a nasty piece of work and no mistake. It's also a good piece of cinema.

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