So I’m waiting on the third installment of Refn’s Pusher trilogy. I don’t want to write an actual review until I’m finished, but I like the series. I like it a lot. I’m impressed by Refn’s use of pacing and revelation. It’s subtle, and it’s how it should be done. In Pusher and Pusher II, he reveals the characters of Frank and Tonny, respectively, in a surprisingly natural manner. In the first film, you sympathize with Frank (played beautifully by Kim Bodnia) until stress reveals the most unsympathetic side of his character, after which I was cheering for Vic to rob him blind and get the hell out of Dodge. In the second film, Mads Mikkelsen’s Tonny is initially somewhat painful to watch. He’s awkward, stupid, a junkie, and never quite in step with the seemingly endless parade of criminals that surround him. But Refn reveals a depth to him–he’s not smart, not cunning, not sober–by shading his character with the huge, brutal shadow of one of the more effed-up father figures in film I’ve seen. The Duke isn’t outrageously horrible, he’s actually very believable, but the thousand tiny–and not so tiny–cuts he inflicts upon Tonny are enough to make the two-bit junkie somewhat sympathetic.
Much of Mads Mikkelsen’s acting is nonverbal, which is no small feat. I’m becoming more of a fan with every one of his films I watch. He has an interesting face, at times strikingly handsome, at other times not so much. His Tonny says a lot of stupid, idiotic things, but it’s the silences that tell the story. Tonny ends up embroiled in the mess made by his friend, Kusse, (I’m not translating that for you), and becomes the voice of reason. Kusse is worthless, and much dumber than Tonny, but always seems to get away with it.
As Refn allows the story to unfold, you find that there is a certain sense of morality within Tonny, a lack of a certain degree of ruthlessness, that is one of the factors in his failed criminal career. He’s insecure and almost nice, which makes for a terrible criminal.
Again, I don’t want to get too into the movies until I’ve seen the last one. Mr. HG didn’t like the second film as much as I did, mocking me gently for my soft spot for Tonny. As the movie ended, I was extolling the sympathetic qualities of Tonny, and Mr. HG laughed, chiding, “He’s a hopeless junkie eff-up on the run from a murder–albeit the victim needed killing–with a stolen baby. You can change him!” Apparently, I’m an idiot girl sometimes.
I’ll finish this with the statement of fact: I’m becoming a huge fan of Nicolas Winding Refn. Also, Mads Mikkelsen is a wonderful actor, and well on his way to toppling my longtime favorite actor, Hugo Weaving, from his pedestal. I’m going to have to see a few more of his Danish films before I make a final decision, but he could end the decade-long reign of Weaving. If Mikkelsen has got an Interview quality film on his resume, it’s all over but the crying and the pink slips.