Following the debacle of his first English-language film, the art-house thriller FEAR X (2003), Danish writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn regrouped with a remarkable sequel to his gritty crime thriller PUSHER (1996). Where PUSHER followed the sudden downward spiral of a successful mid-level drug dealer named Frank, PUSHER II picks up the story of his hard-luck associate Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen), a none-too-bright flunky with a ruinous soft streak and a gift for seizing defeat from the jaws of victory. After finishing up a hitch in jail, Tonny makes a beeline for the chop shop owned by his thuggish father, "The Duke" (Leif Sylvester Petersen), but any hopes he may have harbored for a warm family reunion are immediately dashed: The Duke is openly contemptuous of Tonny but dotes on Tonny's much younger half brother, Valdemar (Luis Werner Grau), The Duke's child by a hooker who works for another criminal associate, Kusse-Kurt (Kurt Nielsen). What's more, The Duke is grooming O (Oyvind Hagen-Traberg), one of Tonny's old friends, to take a larger role in the family business. Humiliated but with nowhere else to go, Tonny scrounges up work from The Duke and moves in with O and his fiancee, Gry (Maria Erwolter), whose slutty best friend Charlotte (Anne Sorensen) swears that Tonny is the father of her new baby, a child of so little interest to her beyond the child welfare she gets from the government that she hasn't even bothered to give it a name. The screws are in, and Refn twists them for the better part of an hour: Perpetually buzzed on cocaine and paranoia, Tonny messes up over and over again. He can't perform at Kusse-Kurt's whorehouse and subsequently teams up with Kurt to execute a dope deal with middle-aged tough guy Milo (Zlatko Buric); the buy goes terribly wrong and he's drawn into a harebrained cover-up. Tonny makes a scene at O and Gry's wedding reception and, in a desperate effort to redeem himself in his father's eyes, agrees to commit cold-blooded murder. The marvel is that amidst the blood and sweat and drugs, Refn and Mikkelsen manage to mold Tonny into a fully fleshed-out character, not likable but utterly believable. His final, wrenching stab at personal redemption is so wrongheaded and desperately naive that it's absolutely devastating. More bleak, fatalistic character study than thriller, the middle film in Refn's PUSHER trilogy ranks with the best movie portrayals of life on the criminal fringes.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: NR
- Review: Following the debacle of his first English-language film, the art-house thriller FEAR X (2003), Danish writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn regrouped with a remarkable sequel to his gritty crime thriller PUSHER (1996). Where PUSHER followed the sudden down… (more)