Already a box office hit on home turf, this gritty and violent thriller about a successful pusher and his downfall is certain to have some success on foreign soil. Pic has already been sold to several countries, including the U.K., and is a good example of the youthfulness of Denmark’s current New Wave. Director Nicolas Winding Refn, from a well-known film and theater family, and producer Henrik Danstrup are only 26.
Frank (Kim Bodnia), a pusher, likes his job, and the beautiful women and fast cars that go with it. One day, he is caught by the police while in possession of a bag of heroin. He’s set free, but the heroin’s owner wants his money. Suddenly, Frank becomes a hunted man: If he doesn’t come up with the money in a few days, he’ll be killed. His desperate journey through Copenhagen’s underworld becomes more and more violent.
In interviews, Refn has noted his admiration for directors John Cassavetes and Martin Scorsese, and it’s evident in this impressive first feature. Pic feels like a Danish “Mean Streets,” and is as rooted in Copenhagen’s Vesterbro district as Scorsese’s movie was in N.Y.’s Little Italy. Morten Soborg’s hand-held camera follows Frank through the streets, the bars, the clubs and drug addicts’ apartments with a feverish intensity that sometimes gives pic the feel of a haunting documentary.
The subject has been done before, but Refn avoids the cliches, both in the story itself and its telling. He’s helped by good actors throughout, especially Bodnia (from “Nightwatch”). The violence and language are both rough, and definitely not for the squeamish.