Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Anders Thomas Jensen
Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lars Brygmann, Nicholas Bro, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt, Gustav Lindh, Roland Moller.
With its mix of black humour, quirky characters and violence this offbeat crime drama from Danish director Anders Thomas Jensen (After The Wedding, etc) seems like it has been inspired by the likes of the Coen brothers.
Markus (a heavily bearded Mads Mikkelsen) returns home from his posting abroad to be with his teenaged daughter Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg) following the tragic death of his wife Emma in a horrific train crash that killed eleven people. Markus steadfastly refuses counselling, and is often at odds with Mathilde, who is struggling to make sense of the tragedy.
Markus is soon approached by Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and emotionally fragile Lennart (Lars Brygmann), two oddball statisticians who claim that the crash was no accident. Otto is also feeling guilty because he gave up his seat to Emma and survived the crash. Along with shy, overweight and foul mouthed computer geek Emmanthaler (Nicholas Bro) they produce the evidence to convince Markus that the crash was deliberately caused by members of a white supremacist gang known as the Riders Of Justice who were planning to kill a key witness in an upcoming trial. The three geeks are more used to hacking into systems to get free gym memberships and other benefits rather than tracking criminals.
Markus sets out on his own mission to achieve a rough brand of justice. Along the way a number of innocents are caught up in his quest, including Mathilde, her boyfriend Sirius (Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt), and Bodashka (Gustav Lindh), a gay young Russian sex slave that the eccentric quartet rescue from a vicious and sadistic gangster. The plan however goes awry and the mission turns into a giant therapy session with Lennart, Otto and Emmathaler moving in with Markus and trying to help Mathilde work through her feelings. Revenge as group therapy?
Markus reluctantly grows protective of this band of misfits, despite their often-annoying personality quirks. Otto has a deformed arm and a strong moral streak that upsets Markus, while Lennart bears the psychological scars of childhood sexual abuse. Their flaws and quirks add an extra layer and depth to this revenge thriller.
The script, from scriptwriter turned director Jensen and cowriter Nikolaj Arcel (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and 3 Department Q thrillers, etc), defies genre expectations with its twists. The script also deals with important themes like family, grief, fate, masculinity. Jensen is originally from the Dogme school of minimalist filmmaking, but here he has thrown most of those rules out the window and he doesn’t pull his punches when it comes to delivering the action. Jensen’s direction during the action sequences is muscular. Cinematographer Kaspar Tuxen (The Professor And The Madman, etc) bathes the film in a dark, moody palette that suits the material.
This is the fifth collaboration between Mikkelsen and Jensen, and he delivers a strong performance here. Mikkelsen has a strong screen presence, full of menace and brutality, but he also brings nuances to his angry, taciturn, brooding and vengeful Markus. The filmmaker also seems to have an affinity for outcasts, and here the supporting cast are all excellent and manage to bring nuance and empathy to their broken characters. Newcomer Gadeberg is superb as Mathilde and provides the film with its emotional core.
Riders Of Justice cries out for the almost obligatory Hollywood remake, possibly with Liam Neeson or Mel Gibson in the role of Markus, with Willem Dafoe as Otto and Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell) as the sad sack Emmathaler.
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