Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
109 minutes (unrated) 1996 widescreen 1.66:1 Anchor Bay DVD Region '0'
review by Christopher Teague
This film would probably be subjected to some form of ultimate irony: if Hollywood
remade this superb Danish thriller, it would be a complete pile of bovine excrement,
even though it is made in a very Hollywood way.
I had never heard of Nicolas Winding Refn, but if this is the
standard of his efforts, then I shall look out for him in the future. He has made a
terrific thriller, which despite its two main characters, Frank and Tonny, being drug
pushers, it is very watchable. The basic premise is Frank incurring the wrath of a
local drug lord, and going on the lam. There, in a nutshell.
Refn's style of direction is pure Hollywood, with no European
arty-farty nonsense. His approach feels guerrilla-like, and uncompromising (akin to
Abel Ferrara and Scorsese) - its drug-taking scenes are incredibly realistic, along
with the violence. Also, keep an eye on the crowd, who look on with bewilderment when
they see people running down the middle of the road. The script, written by Refn and
Jens Dahl, contains some great dialogue, but allows the cast to create the characters
as their own, and Refn I feel openly encouraged this, with his almost documentary
Another plus point is the music, which is pure metal, but then I like
grinding guitars and pounding drums, which complements the film perfectly. As for
picture and sound quality, the print is in widescreen but of no great shakes quality
wise, and the soundtrack is in Dolby 5.1 - but again there is nothing there to show it
off, apart from the music at full volume.
In a nutshell, if you want to see a well-made thriller, and do not
mind reading subtitles, then I heartily recommend this film. I watched it with an open
mind, since my only notion of Danish cinema is someone called Lars von Trier, whose
claim to fame is having full penetrative sex on a dull film about people pretending to
be 'spazs', but hailed by pompous critics as a genius. Bah, humbug.
DVD extras: a pretty good bag. A making-of featurette, On The
Edge, where the executive producer fills the role vacated by 'Cubby' Broccoli, with
a huge cigar; director's commentary, talent biographies, cinema trailer, TV ad spot,
subtitles (thankfully) and scene access in 23 chapters.
originally published in VideoVista #20 (November 2000)
Guide to the Movies
compiled by Tony
Lee editor of Pigasus Press
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