Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen) has just been released from prison, and sees this as a signal to begin a new lease of life, though he remains as mired in the criminal underworld of Denmark as he was when he was incarcerated. Maybe some things have not changed so much since he's been inside, but he can rely on one thing, the disapproval of his father Smeden (Leif Sylvester), a crime boss who controls a large swathe of Copenhagen's drugs trade but is reluctant to hand over even the slightest amount of power to his son. Tonny initally tries to amuse himself by visiting a couple of prostitutes at the local whorehouse, but even after all that time serving his sentence, he cannot get aroused and embarrassingly has to give up on his previous dream of a celebratory threesome...
But he has more on his plate than that, as Pusher II was a story of fatherhood: that's right, the loser character who disappeared halfway through the first Pusher after being beaten up was trying to become semi-respectable for the sake of a baby, whose mother claims is his offspring since she never allowed anyone else to impregnate her except him. He may be sceptical, and talk of a paternity test looms, but the notion begins to grow on him and soon he likes the idea of being a dad, even if he cannot stand the mother, who is more interested in getting off her face on cocaine than she is looking after an infant. But Tonny carries a lot of baggage and will have to exorcise a lot of demons if he is to pass muster as parent material, which was really what this sort-of-sequel was about.
You had to call it a sort of sequel as it was part of the Pusher cinematic universe, but did not follow straight on from the first film: we never find out what happened to that effort's protagonist, for instance, and if you were choosing a person to follow next, the none too bright Tonny may not be your first choice. However, returning director Nicolas Winding Refn was able to spot a star in the making, and Mikkelsen was on his way internationally in a variety of roles that proved he had impressive range, so Refn was absolutely correct to highlight the actor's abilities in what amounted to a showcase for him. He had only agreed to helm this second instalment because his previous film Fear X had flopped pretty badly, but it proved a wise decision when it brought his career back on track and won him a burgeoning fanbase who tracked his output for the next years of creativity.
You could already tell he had formed a signature style, with his tendency for single-coloured scenes, sudden bursts of violence interrupting the interplay, and a preference for examining the mentality of people most would cross the road to avoid. Tonny's wish to do right by the baby was contrasted with Smeden's lack of desire to even so much as offer a word or two of encouragement to his boy, treating him like an idiot in a manner that suggested his lack of faith had started early and had even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The way this was resolved was perhaps none too surprising, but along the road Refn was endlessly distracted by the details of this milieu and how it came to effect a world building in a manner that was tres au courant with the cinema of the twenty-first century: if you were not creating a meticulous atmosphere and landscape to populate with your characters, then you simply were not trying, and that was all over Pusher II. That said, it still represented an undoubted talent not quite firing on all cylinders, making this a stepping stone to bigger things. Music by Peter Peter.