Thursday, May 20, 2021

film review: Riders of Justice



Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen

Written by Anders Thomas Jensen & Nikolaj Arcel

ChinoKino score: B+

Review by Allan Tong

Denmark has a population of only 5.8 million, but it produces a lot of good movies. Director-writer Jensen has written more than a few of them, including the dramas Brothers and In A Better World. Here, he helms a drama with dark comedic undertones about a bunch of fuck-ups who wreak revenge on an outlaw gang after the leader's wife dies in a subway accident. Problem is, a couple of math geeks/pseudo-scientists and a hopeless computer nerd convince the leader--a hardened soldier--that his wife was the victim of a murder. Specifically, that train she was riding with her daughter was intentionally crashed to kill another passenger and the wife was collateral damage.

Mads Mikkelsen plays Markus, the killer veteran, with steely conviction and leads this small army of goofs to take down the gang one-by-one after he swallows their theory, which seems outlandish. The outlaw gang gradually gets wise to who is attacking them, and the confrontations between both groups rise. Meanwhile, Markus' foot soldiers ingratiate themselves with him and his teenage daughter by filling the emotional void left by the wife's sudden death. This development isn't exactly surprising, but it is believable and adds a measure of warmth to the overall dark story. Nikolaj Lie Kaas as Otto and Lars Brygmann as Lennart shine as the goofy scientists. They threaten to tumble into farce at times, which would have unbalanced the tone of the film, but they stop short thankfully.

In fact, Riders of Justice pulls off a risky balancing act of drama and laughs, favouring drama. This isn't The Big Lebowski, where the laughs are played broadly. Then again, I'm not sure just what Riders of Justice is trying to say, if anything. Is it condoning vigilantes? Is it saying something about today's families? Veterans? Or maybe I'm reading too much into this film and I should just enjoy it. Riders of Justice is, above all, an entertaining film and maybe this is a case where the Danes merely wish to please audiences without delivering a heavy message--and there's nothing wrong with that.

Riders of Justice is available on VOD starting May 21.

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