A comedy-crime film full of dark, dry humor, plus Mads Mikkelsen
RIDERS OF JUSTICE (2021)
Mads Mikkelsen is so hot right now, still basking in the high success of recent International Film Oscar winner Another Round. When I noticed he was the main character of Riders of Justice, I wanted to see it without even knowing what it was really about. A comedy-crime film full of dark, dry humor, plus Mads Mikkelsen and I am fully onboard.
Anders Thomas Jensen is an experienced Danish director, with an Oscar to his name for Best Live Action Short, Valgaften, from 1998. Jensen directs here with much confidence in Riders of Justice, knowing exactly what the audience wants and giving it to them but in his own way. There is noticeable chemistry amongst the characters, the story is paced evenly and is layered and complex, as not to be pigeon-holed into one specific genre. Jensen explores grief and rage as close and caring as he explores young womanhood and a rocky father-daughter relationship.
Mikkelsen plays Markus, a quiet and serious military man who comes home from a deployment to his teenage daughter after the tragic death of his wife, Emma (Anne Birgitte Lind). His daughter, Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), and Emma are riding a train, when nice nerd-type guy Otto (Nikolaj Lei Kaas) gives up his seat on the train for Emma. Soon thereafter there is a horrific accident leaving Emma dead, exactly where Otto had been seated. Otto, overcome with trauma in the aftermath of the accident, attempts to make sense of it with his friends and their unique skills. The best part about the plot is that every detail gets tied up by the end, with new developments along the way, nothing is introduced without being resolved somehow.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
This cast of characters end up being a group of misfits that become a family. Every character is multi-dimensional and adds to the value of the story. Mikkelsen is almost unrecognizable as this harshly violent man who learns to deal with his grief and grow in his relationship with his daughter who he has been absent for a lot of her life. Mathilde is a sweet young woman, full of sadness after witnessing her mother’s death and feeling like she is partially to blame. Mathilde navigates boys and eventually stands up to her scary father, gaining independence and ownership of her life. She is the glue that holds the misfit of random men, Otto and his friends, together. Otto’s friends, Lennart (Lars Brygmann) and Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro)--who is my favorite character--have some laugh out loud lines of dialog that are so quick and dry you will be thankful for the subtitles so you don’t miss any of their wit. The cherry on top is seeing these men attempt to be tough and violent, and then seeing their softside, too. THe juxtaposition is perfect for conveying the type of men they are--you will want to be their friend.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
The overall look and design of the film accompanies the narrative at any given time. Nothing super memorable or out of the ordinary here, but everything is well done and creative enough without going overboard. It serves its purpose.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
There is nothing super amazing to note here, but the music and sound design serve the purpose and set the tone for the scene at hand, creating suspense and thrilling moments when needed, and not over shadowing moments of dry humor. Sometimes silence is key.
This was such an enjoyable watch, and I cannot recommend it enough. However, this is not for the faint of heart. Themes of guilt, revenge, grief, suffering, and more are not shyed away from. There are extremely violent moments that are sure to make some viewers squirm or cringe--and there are potential triggering moments as well. The grief-fueled violent moments are somewhat cathartic, though, and the payoff of the tender moments are worth it in the end.
RIDERS OF JUSTICE, IN NY AND LA THEATERS MAY 14, EVERYWHERE MAY 21