Riders Of Justice
Director: Anders Thomas Jensen
Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lars Brygmann, Nicolas Bro
As archly amusing as it was, Danish writer-director Jensen’s previous picture the Mads Mikkelsen-starring arch comedy ‘Men & Chicken’ could safely have been filed under the acquired taste category. This riotous follow-up, a dark and constantly surprising screwball comedy drama, however possesses real mainstream crossover potential.
After a colourful and whimsical Xmas-set prologue, we are dragged back down to murkily-lit earth as we are introduced to Markus (Mikkelsen) a soldier in Afghanistan who must return home after his wife is killed in a tragic train accident in order to look after his daughter Mathilde (Gadeberg). He is wholly unequipped for the job though, ignoring her suggestions about attending therapy, instead drinking beer and making nihilistic speeches.
Also present at the accident was statistician Otto (Kaas), who just prior was working with his partner Lennart (Brygmann) on an algorithm which he believed could be used to predict future events, but who was fired for his troubles. Otto visits Markus telling him that he believes that the incident was no accident, rather a planned murder involving the titular motorcycle gang. Markus switching into revenge mode begins stockpiling heavy grade weapons and Otto and Lennert, who were planning on something a little more benign, agree to go along with his plans worryingly quickly, enlisting their hacker friend Emmenthaler (Bro) to help locate the perpetrators. Amusingly, Mathilde is somehow persuaded all these goings-on relate to a kind of elaborate counselling programme.
A short summary doesn’t do justice to the gleefully amoral chaos that ensues with the script constantly throwing narrative curveballs and delivering unexpected digressions which Otto’s algorithm could never have anticipated. Yet, somehow, Jensen never loses control of his material. Coen bros comparisons will abound, but there’s a touch of underappreciated Norwegian thriller ‘Headhunters’ too in its discursive plotting and gallery of Scandinavian misfit characters.
There’s an agreeably easy rapport between the male cast, all Jensen regulars, who hilariously each sport a different hue of masculine dysfunction, while Gadeberg’s Mathilda anchors the drama and keeps it all emotionally grounded.
Riders of Justice is released 23rd July
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