1998, Movie, NR, 105 mins


MEAN STREETS in Denmark. Low-level Copenhagen dealer Frank (Kim Bodnia) has a nice business going with blowhard pal Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen), a low-maintenance relationship with Vic (Lara Drasbaek), the stripper who stashes his drugs and a solid connection in longtime friend Milo (Zlatco Buric). So naturally, Fate sticks out its foot and trips him up: Frank owes Milo money, so he scores some additional dope on credit in anticipation of a lucrative sale, only to get busted instead. Frank has to dump the dope in a pond, and the police sweat him for a couple of days before letting him go for lack of evidence. Now he's deep in debt and the seeds of doubt have been planted in Milo's mind: Is Frank setting him up in return for his suspiciously early release? It's not hard to figure out what first-time writer/director Nicholas Winding Refn has been watching: MEAN STREETS, clearly, as well as THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, BAD LIEUTENANT and TRAINSPOTTING. But his noxious little debut feature has a vibrant life apart from its influences: Frank is a genuinely compelling anti-hero, despite the fact that he's a hateful, brutal, thug who's low enough to try and wring money out of his aging mother. Refn isn't a self-made sensibility like Quentin Tarantino: He comes from a filmmaking background — his father's an editor, whose credits include Lars von Trier's BREAKING THE WAVES — and he has attended (though not finished) film school on two continents. But he has got the gift of making tired material his own. The jittery hand-held camera, tightly focused point of view (we never know anything Frank doesn't), the relentless accumulation of bad moves and worse luck that conspire to squeeze Frank until he explodes: It's too nasty to enjoy, but too compelling to turn away from. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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