The third film in Nicolas Winding Refn's trilogy about the day-to-day grind of drug-dealing and use in Copenhagen focuses on Serbian pusher Milo (Zlatko Buric), a minor, but memorable, character in both PUSHER (1996) and PUSHER II: WITH BLOOD ON MY HANDS (2004). Milo is an old-school dealer whose years in the business have paid off with a nice house, a restaurant, a stable of longtime employees and connections, and a nasty little heroin habit he's now decided to do something about. The film opens in a 12-step meeting where Milo announces he's been clean for five days and hopes he can keep from messing up. But Milo has a stressful day ahead: It's his daughter Milena's (Marinela Dekic) 25th birthday and everything must go perfectly. He's cooking traditional delicacies for 50 guests, and is stuck in the middle of a deal that's going worse by the minute. First he finds he's taken delivery of ecstasy — a drug about which he knows nothing and cares less — courtesy of a rude, ruthless upstart named Luan (Kujtim Loki). Then Little Mohammed (Ilyas Agac), the sometime associate he delegates to move the pills, vanishes. Plus, preparations for Milena's party are going badly: half of Milo's goons are violently ill after trying his stuffed cabbage, the wine still has to be picked up, and Milena is one deviation away from a full-fledged fit. It's only a matter of time before Milo falls off the wagon — thanks to a late-night run-in with PUSHER II's sleazy Kusse-Kurt (Kurt Nielsen) — and soon the bodies start piling up. As in PUSHER II, Refn is more interested in character than the sordid thrills of criminal life, though PUSHER 3 does contain a spectacularly nasty body-disposal sequence. In the first of the film's many ironies, Milo finds himself in the exact same situation in which he had placed Kusse-Kurt in PUSHER II, and though he's better equipped to cope — even in the middle of a relapse, Milo is less drug-addled than Kurt, and was wilier to begin with — he's also 20 years older and increasingly out of sync with his brutal, rapidly changing line of work. The film's open-ended conclusion underlines the nature of Milo's Achilles' heel — family — and suggests that, like the rest of Refn's PUSHER characters, the best he can hope for is to tread water until the moment when drowning begins to look more like relief than failure.
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