(director/writer: Nicolas Winding Refn; cinematographer: Morten Soborg; editors: Anne Osterud/Miriam Norgaard; music: Peter Peter; cast: Zlatko Buric (Milo), Ilyas Agac (Little Mohammed), Marinela Dekic (Milena), Kujtim Loki (Luan), Ramadan Huseini (Rexho), Slavko Labovic (Radovan), Vasilije Bojicic (Branco), Levino Jensen (Mike), Hakan Turan (Ali), Kurt Nielsen (Kurt the Cunt), Susan Petersen (Marie); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Henrik Danstrup; Magnolia Pictures; 2005-Denmark-in Danish with English subtitles)

“It’s a nasty film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The thirtysomething Danish filmmaker (spent his creative years in New York) Nicolas Winding Refn (“Bleeder”/”Fear X”) directs and writes the final leg of his gritty trilogy about drug lords in Copenhagen that was started in 1996. It’s a nasty film that clues you into a drug dealer’s everyday affairs and is filled with a relentless brutality and angst that makes for hypnotic viewing, as it tells a no holds barred story that’s not for the squeamish as it includes the butchering like a pig of a dead human being.

The aging Serbian crime lord Milo (Zlatko Buric) is wrestling with his smack drug addiction and attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting on the morning of his spoiled daughter Milena’s (Marinela Dekic) 25th birthday, for which he’s to cook for 50 guests at a swanky club he rented for the celebration. The story follows Milo around for one long stressful day in his life that begins with the crime boss shaken when instead of receiving heroin he receives 10,000 hits of Ecstasy–a drug he’s not familiar with and doesn’t want to push. The Albanian drug dealers that hooked him up with the wrong shipment, Luan (Kujtim Loki) and Rexho (Ramadan Huseini), give him a few hours to either sell the pills or return them. Big talker Little Mohammed (Ilyas Agac), a Turk, takes on the contract to sell them, but unexpectedly Milo’s trusted enforcer Branco (Vasilije Bojicic) comes down with food poisoning over the ethnic meal Milo cooked of sarma (stuffed cabbage, minced beef and pork with rice enveloped in pickled cabbage or vine leaves) in his small club and Branco is shitting in his pants and doesn’t go along to keep an eye on the untrustworthy Mohammed.

Mohammed is a no show, and Milo hires a Muslim underworld figure to track him down in an effort to get back either the pills or the money. Meanwhile Luan and Rexho force a partnership on Milo over the botched drug deal, and Rexho comes over with an obnoxious sleazeball Polish pimp and a scared kidnapped underaged Polish girl they are selling to be a prostitute in Copenhagen. Rexho treats Milo like a lackey while ordering him about to prepare food, and the stressed-out Milo starts smoking heroin again after being clean for a few days. When things get violently out of hand, Milo contacts his retired gangster friend Radovan (Slavko Labovic), now the owner of a suburban restaurant, to help him question by torture the gift wrapped Mohammed and dispose of the bodies piling up in his club. It ends in the morning with Milo surviving the night, but his fate unresolved as there are still obstacles to overcome.

The film pushes an unraveling Milo to his breaking point, and shows how all his bad karma leaves him trapped in the evil life he spun for himself and that he’s left with no way out but to be either a more effective drug lord or be taken over by the disrespectful younger generation of hoods. The widower’s misplaced humanity he shows to his selfish nurse daughter is overturned by his barbaric acts as a crime boss. The usual Hollywood depiction of a glamorous lifestyle for the drug lords is not seen here. Instead we get a fearful crime boss worried about losing his rung in the underworld ladder while leading a comfortable middle-class existence that is being constantly threatened by forces he can’t control–like struggling to maintain respect from the young Turks. Milo also realizes that his most valued possession, his beloved daughter, is no sweetheart but is all that he has left that’s worth saving.

Pusher 3 bears a striking resemblance to “The Sopranos,” though it was made first and pushes the envelope more as to its gruesome storytelling and more sicko black humor. It’s made by a crime film junkie and is meant for those in love with the genre and want to see the real deal, or one as close to real as possible even if the violence might be too bloody much.

Pusher III Poster

REVIEWED ON 3/5/2009 GRADE: A-   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/