You wouldn’t think that Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie and the 1996 Danish gangster film Pusher would have all that much in common—and, for all intents and purposes, you would be correct. Tim and Eric is a psychotic train ride to crazy town starring Adult Swim favorites Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, while Pusher is a gritty, violent, no frills gangster flick from director Nicolas Winding Refn, who went on to make Nitehawk favorites Bronson and Drive.
There is, however, an important element that links these two together in a fairly interesting way, and it’s not that we’re showing both of them this weekend: they’re two sides of the drug movie coin.
On the fun side of the drug coin we have Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, where the pair find themselves in a billion dollars’ worth of debt and buy a dilapidated shopping mall out in flyover country to make up the cost. Tim and Eric’s bizarre brand of anti-comedy has long been associated with drug use, to the point where they’re often asked if they write while under the influence in interviews (they don’t).
Their show is a stoner’s delight, loaded with bizarre imagery and filtered through a nostalgic haze of VHS fuzz, and while the movie shares the same vibe, it takes this aesthetic even farther. B$M proudly features scenes of genital piercings, depraved sex acts, fourth-wall breakage and a bathtub full of… well, you’ll see. It’s a film that sometimes toes the line between blissfully noxious and a bad trip. I mean this in a good way, by the way.
On the other side of the coin, we have Pusher. Stripped of the slick production of Drive and the operatic pomp of Bronson, Pusher is a shaky, taut, violent thriller that takes a ground-up look at the Copenhagen drug trade. Mired in an economy that ostensibly relies solely on credit and broken knee caps, mid-level heroin dealer Frank soon finds himself deeply indebted to a Serbian drug lord after a big score goes south (both movies are also about inescapable debt, oddly enough) and has two days to scrape the money together that will save his life.
While slinging heroin in night clubs and strip joints provides him with a steady income, there’s nothing lavish about Frank’s lifestyle—it’s not clear if he even has a place of his own. Even Frank’s big-time supplier lives in an apartment that looks like it belongs in the world’s worst craigslist listing. If characters aren’t threatening violence or getting threatened themselves, they spend their time smoking, shooting and snorting their way through life, having the kind of conversations you’d hear at a middle school lunch table.
Both Tim and Eric and Pusher are smart, intense experiences for vastly different reasons, with one exploring the extremes of nihilistic psychedelia and the other dwelling in the real life implications of drug trade. Both routes have their rewards and both will probably make you lay off of the recreational drug use… at least for a couple of hours.