Riders Of Justice is a blackly comic new film starring the ever impressive Mads Mikkelsen – and here’s our review.
In the 25 years since Nicolas Winding Refn cast him as troubled hoodlum Tonny in crime thriller Pusher, Mads Mikkelsen has racked up an astonishing resumé. He’s alternated supporting roles in the James Bond (Le Chiffre, Casino Royale), Marvel (Kaecilius, Doctor Strange) Star Wars (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Indiana Jones franchises (he’s been cast in Indy 5) with critically acclaimed Danish films (Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt), and played the screen’s most notorious serial killer, Hannibal Lector, in three seasons of the eponymous TV show.
This year, he played the lead in Another Round, which won the Best International Feature Film Oscar, but I’d argue that Riders Of Justice (Retfærdighedens ryttere) is better. If not for the subtitles, you’d swear it was the darkly comic absurdism of peak Coen brothers at work, but the truth is there is no filmmaker working in the English language whose work compares to Jensen’s – which is less an indictment of anglophone filmmakers than a development system that tends to sand the edges off films before, say, a man posing as a child psychologist tells a grieving child she’s not a sociopath – as she fears – but chubby.
Riders begins, like a certain Italian neorealist classic, with the theft of a bicycle. This leads, thanks to the absurdist cause-and-effect of Jensen’s screenplay (not to mention life itself), to a freak train accident that kills Emma, the wife of soldier Marcus (Mikkelsen) and mother of their teenage daughter, Mathilde (Gadeberg).
Statistician Otto (Britannia’s Kaas), who narrowly survived the tragedy, has reason to believe it was no accident, however. Thus, he approaches Markus with his theories – a move that sets off its own deadly chain reaction as Markus, a trained killer, exacts bloody vengeance on the perpetrators.
Part of the film’s eccentric charm – if ‘charm’ is the appropriate word for material that’s sometimes deliberately confrontational – is that, while the above reads like the plot outline of a thriller rooted in tragedy, Jensen’s refusal to countenance predictable outcomes takes his characters in unexpected directions. It’s also a tendency that hasn’t always worked to his advantage. With this subject matter, however, it’s the perfect approach, leading to a blackly comic, almost Python-esque exploration of the futility and absurdity of trying to find meaning in a world sorely lacking in it.
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