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Pusher is a Danish crime film written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. At the time of its release, a Danish crime film was quite novel, and its popularity had a great influence on Danish films to follow. In this respect, it was something akin to the Pulp Fiction of Denmark. Two sequels, filmed back-to-back, followed almost ten years later to rescue Refn's ailing film company from bankruptcy. Each sequel follows a different character introduced in the first film.
The first film follows Frank, a mid-level Copenhagen drug dealer. After a drug deal gone bad, Frank finds himself deeply in debt to Milo, a local Serbian drug lord. As Frank struggles to find the money, he must also grapple with complications from his would-be girlfriend and the dubious loyalty of his partner, Tonny. The second film picks up with Tonny after he completes a prison sentence and returns to his estranged father's chop shop. Tonny struggles to earn his father's respect in the underworld and be there for his own son. The third film follows a day in the life of Milo, who struggles with preparations for his overbearing daughter's birthday while fighting off Albanian drug dealers and his own lurking addiction.
The series provide examples of:
- Affably Evil: Milo and Radovan in the first film. Milo cooks for Frank and Radovan shares a pleasant conversation with him. Once they're crossed, however, the affability quickly vanishes.
- The Aggressive Drug Dealer: In Pusher 3 Kurt insists that Milo take some heroin, knowing that Milo is a recovering addict. He does this in vengeance for Milo's actions in the second film.
- Ascended Extra: The short weight-lifter in the first film is promoted to Milo's future son-in-law in the third film. Branko, one of Milo's various hoods, is promoted to his dragon in the third film, though he drops out midway through the film.
- A Simple Plan
- Batter Up: Frank takes a baseball bat to the head of Tonny, after a cop tells him that Tonny ratted him out. Tonny doesn't show up again until the sequel, with some nasty cranial scars.
- Bittersweet Ending:The ending of Pusher 2, in which Tonny has killed his evil father and fled the city with his son. Although Tonny has almost no resources and little money, he at least seems to have embraced fatherhood and might escape his criminal upbringing.
- Big Bad Friend: Frank believes Tonny to be this, but it is most likely averted and just a product of Frank's paranoia.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Eventually Milo and Radovan resort to torturing Frank. In Pusher 3, Milo re-enlists Radovan for one last job to torture a captive.
- Country Matters: A particularly worthless pimp is called Kurt the Cunt (Kusse-Kurt in Danish). Truth in Television, as this was the actor's real nickname. The director met him while researching a 12 step program.
- Daddy's Little Villain: In Pusher 3, we discover that Milo's daughter clearly wears the pants in the family. She barks orders at her flustered father during her birthday celebration. When she discovers that Milo is forcing her boyfriend to buy his heroin for distribution, she tells her father to lower his price. What a family!
- Demoted to Extra: Milo only pops in for a scene in the second film, though he majorly screws over Tonny and Kurt in the process. Kurt only pops in for a single scene in the third film, though he majorly screws over Milo in the process.
- Downer Ending: Pusher ends with Frank stranded in Copenhagen with no friends or resources, while his enemies poise to strike. Dialogue in Pusher 2 suggests that Milo, at least, never caught up with Frank. Pusher 3 ends with Milo smoking silently beside his empty pool, having relapsed and sparked a deadly war with the Albanian gang.
- Disposable Sex Worker: In Pusher 2, Kurt kills a hooker in his home, tricking Tonny into being an accomplice. However, Tonny later refuses to kill his father's new wife, who is a brothel madam. Milo also treats a sex slave as a human being, which leads to a war with the Albanian gangsters.
- Disposing of a Body: A particularly graphic example in the end of Pusher 3, where Milo gets Radovan to help him butcher some hoods for disposal.
- The Dragon: Radovan for Milo in the first film. Branko in the third film, though he's out with food poisoning for most of the film. This prompts Radovan to make a spectacular return as a Torture Technician.
- Dragon Their Feet: Milo's terrible cooking in the third film causes his whole gang to get food poisoning, leaving him to his own devices for the remainder of the film.
- Dramatis Personae: Each film opens with a montage introducing the major characters, set to a pounding rock beat. Each character is harshly lit from above as they glare at the camera.
- Driven to Suicide: In Pusher, the junkie that Radovan and Frank intimidate ends up shooting himself after attempting to hold them up with the shotgun.
- Drop the Hammer: Milo drops the hamer in Pusher 3 after getting pushed too far by the pimp and Rexho.
- Evil Chef: Milo. His crime lair is a restaurant and he likes to feed his criminal associates his creations. He's actually a pretty terrible cook.
- Guns Akimbo: Frank is briefly seen holding two handguns after robbing the bodybuilder. He doesn't actually fire them though, it's just for intimidation.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Frank and Tonny. That is until Frank is fooled into believing that he has ratted him out to the police.
- Insistent Terminology: Frank's first buyer repeatedly asks to be called "Scorpion", apparently because he thinks it makes him sound tough. It doesn't.
- Imagine Spot: At the end of Pusher we see visions of the possibile options Frank is considering.
- It Got Worse: Each film is a slow decline for the main character.
- Lethal Chef: The Evil Chef Milo accidentally gives his goons food poisoning with his cooking, leaving him to his own devices during a gang conflict.
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: Tonny in Pusher 2.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown
- Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: Milo and his gang of Serbians in the first film. In the third, Milo runs into an even worse gang of Albanians.
- Torture Technician: Radovan.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Tonny's motivation in the second film.