Pusher III: I’m the Angel of Death. 2005. Directed & Written by Nicolas Winding Refn.
Starring Zlatko Buric, Marinela Dekic, Slavko Labovic, Ramadan Huseini, Ilyas Agac, and Levino Jensen. Magnolia Home Entertainment.
Not Rated. 90 minutes.
★★★★★ (DVD release)
The third film in Nicolas Winding Refn’s drug/crime thriller trilogy, Pusher III: I’m the Angel of Death begins with Milo (Zlatko Buric) attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting (the people in the meeting are actual addicts – adds a heightened reality to the film having people basically cast off the street). Milo is trying to get ready for his daughter Milena’s (Marinela Dekic) birthday; he has agreed to cook for about 40 people. On top of all this, clearly, he is trying to kick his drug habit. Because not only does Milo deal, as we’ve seen throughout the first two instalments of Pusher, he also snorts and smokes a good deal of product himself. Throughout the film, we basically watch Milo as he tries to balance his family life with his professional life, and how the professional side of his life infringes on both his family, as well as his desire to get clean. Someone on IMDB accurately reviewed this film with the title referring to Eugene O’Neill’s beautiful and equally sad play Long Day’s Journey Into Night – it does feel somewhat like O’Neill, especially with the additional element of Milo’s family, his new son-in-law to be, all thrown into the mix. Milo struggles from the beginning of his day to the end trying not to use, and trying not to let his business consume him.
There are some really great, realistic scenes once again in this film, like the other two previous instalments. One of the early scenes shows Milo and his crew trying to find the hidden drugs stashed inside a vehicle. They search everywhere, and finally one of them locates the drugs. Except they aren’t the drugs Milo wanted; they’re ecstasy pills, while Milo primarily deals with heroin. This kicks off one of the subplots happening in Pusher III, and just another bump in the road for Milo whose day progressively gets worse and worse with each passing minute.
I particularly love how Milo enjoys making his own food. At one point, a guy complains to his boss, posing as chef, that the meat is raw to which Milo replies “Your dick is raw,” and continues on about his day. It’s just so comical – and it works. There are bits to make you laugh out loud in the previous two films, but this one actually made me laugh really hard a few times. Amongst all the grim realities of the Copenhagen drug trade Refn shows us, he also gives up some great comedy; albeit, dark comedy, once you factor in the world we inhabit while laughing at the jokes. It all works together. While we know Milo is a drug pushing murderer by the end of the film (if we somehow hadn’t already) there is still a part of us sympathetic to his situation, as we spend the entire running time essentially watching him try and try again only to fail and fail some more. The funny bits and the dark comedy Refn works in helps not to alleviate the heavy tone of the film, but to make it feel real – Milo feels like a real man. He isn’t a fake caricature of a druglord in the slums of Copenhagen. He comes across as a real man; caught between his terrible life choices and the fact life must go on. Watching him struggle between business and preparing for his daughter’s party, you really feel for him. Even if you know he is truly a terrible human being because of the sleazy world he lives in.
One of the best and funniest moments is once a guy who works for Milo seems to get really sick. Of course Milo does not want to admit it, but it’s clearly his cooking that did the job on his man. As they’re about to leave and head out to take care of some things, the guy shits his pants. Milo keeps calling him an idiot, and the guy yells back that it was his cooking. It’s so funny because any other film it might come off as hammy and silly, but here it is super real, and while funny it comes off naturally. Other movies might use this moment as a gag. Here, it’s just another problem for Milo to add to the plate (pardon the terrible pun).
All that being said, Pusher III: I’m the Angel of Death is titled so for a reason. For all the black comedy in the script, there is still a fiendish evil lurking behind the story. Milo, while sympathetic in some lights, is above all a killer. Later in the film, we see Milo call upon his former enforcer Radovan (Slavko Labovic) to help him deal with some of the business which has reared its head on, of all days, his daughter’s birthday. It’s interesting because Radovan appears to have gotten out of the life, as he mentioned to Frank (Kim Bodnia) in the first Pusher film. He is no longer a bad guy. Or so it seems. This perception quickly changes once Radovan falls back into his old ways and the old profession. There’s one scene where Milo and Radovan are getting into very heavy, very wet, work, and though it’s brief there are some moments of pure terror in those shots.
Also, Radovan’s presence is sort of a foreshadowing in some sense. While Milo is attempting to change his life in regards to his drug habit, the fact Radovan falls so easily, and quickly, back into the old life he seemingly gave up makes Milo’s try at kicking his habit almost futile. It just goes to show these Pusher films are not defined as being genre movies – they are absolutely more than that. Not that there’s anything wrong with genre movies. They’re wonderful. But these movies, especially this third instalment in my opinion, go beyond simple definitions. There is more to them than simply drugs and crime.
The film itself is another 5 star rating. I love each of these films in the trilogy. Apparently, before the guy who played Little Mohammed actually went to jail there were supposed to be plans for a fourth film focusing on his character. These three were so great I do wish Refn could’ve gone and done that. Perhaps it would’ve been overkill. But judging by the trilogy as is, there could have been another great film. Regardless, Pusher III: I’m the Angel of Death is the best as a character study out of the three films. They really get better with each film. I love Milo as a character, and I’m super happy Refn explored him more in this finale of the trilogy. There is a lot of crazy stuff going on, and I really enjoy this one more and more with every viewing.
The DVD release is, once again, proper and on point. Again, there is commentary with Refn, and I always love it. Very enjoyable to hear him talk about film, and his films specifically. There is another featurette titled “Street Casting”. However, the one I enjoy most is the featurette called “Cooking with Milo” – there’s a whole 50-minute feature with Milo, and some other kitchen hands, where we watch him and others cook a few of the dishes he was cooking throughout the Pusher films, such as sarma, and more treats. This is really awesome. Zlatko Buric jokes around a bunch. It’s fun to see him half in-half out of the Milo persona. He seems, aside from the psychopathic madness of Milo, a lot like the character – he’s charismatic, he laughs and jokes, and seems to have a lot of fun with whatever he’s doing. Really enjoyable. Of course he lights up a few smokes, talks about Denmark in reality as opposed to Refn’s vision of Copenhagen, and has a couple glasses of wine, too. A great time, and worth spending the 50 minutes to watch.
This is my favourite of the three films, honestly. They’re all great, but I feel by the time this third one came around, Refn really had a handle on where he was going with them, both visually and thematically, as well as with the overall tone. There’s also that one running electronic-style theme, dark sounding and ominous, which reoccurs throughout each of the films, and it is present again here. I love it – the whole sound of the scoring really helps remind us at times, if me somehow forget, that we’re in a dangerous and scary world.
Refn has given us one of the best crime trilogies ever made, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been a fan of his from the first time I ever saw the first Pusher. I got this DVD set of the trilogy a few years ago now. I really can’t wait to snatch these up on Blu ray because I bet they look just downright fantastic in high definition; the gritty quality would really come across in a beautiful way, I think. Highly recommend if you’ve seen these movies, even just the first, and enjoyed it, to go out and find this DVD trilogy. Amazing films. Worth every penny. Fun watch from the films themselves to all the exciting and enjoyable special features Magnolia Home Entertainment made sure to include for anyone who loves Pusher as much as I do.