Riders of Justice
Directed by: Anders Thomas Jensen
Written by: Anders Thomas Jensen
Featuring: Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Lars Brygmann, Nicolas Bro, Gustav Lindh, Roland Møller, Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt
Markus is in Afghanistan with the Danish military, but a tragedy at home forces him to return only days after telling his wife and daughter he was staying a further three months. Stern, withdrawn and almost unemotional he cannot relate to others and does not process the situation well. A further complication arises when a disparate group of odd and emotionally vulnerable men approach him with compelling information that seems to point towards that the incident that occurred was not accidental as believed but manufactured to get rid of a key witness at a biker gang’s court trial.
It is difficult to reveal any story points in Riders of Justice without ruining what is a fairly complex series of events that unfold. The story itself as a whole is not complicated or difficult to follow but just a complex thriller tale. What the writer and director Ander Thomas Jensen has cleverly done is author a story of redemption, grief, family, love and revenge with revenge being a small ‘r’ despite what the film superficially appears to be about. Just to keep those looking for this film amongst the angst and character studies there are moments of good visceral and serious-looking gunplay, again this is peripheral to the story in many ways.
Mads Mikkelsen is perfectly cast as the stoic and hard-bitten serviceman who thrown into a difficult family situation is trying his best but his best is poor. He is more than matched by Andrea Heick Gadeberg as his daughter, sad, lost and more in touch with her feelings who wants all the help offered to her. Into their lives comes a trio of characters, played by actors Bro, Kaas and Brygmann who are given the challenging task of trying to portray people who have challenges that they have tried hard to overcome but have only been partially successful, which is obvious to everyone else. In this type of role there is a fine line between making the actions and characters ‘realistic’, playing for sympathy or worse still comedic. All three actors succeed. It could be argued Bro, as the clearly autistic Emmenthaler, has the dial turned to eleven at times but it does sit well within the story and situations.
The film succeeds with the emotional content and works well with the Terminator-style gun violence when Markus shows his true skill. There is dark humour laced throughout the running time, but it really depends on your sense of humour whether this works for you or not. For me it was blindfold dart throwing, some hit the board, some did not, this in no way diminishes the story or viewing experience
The ending is uplifting and neatly ties up the story, but it is also its weakest point. Here Jensen perhaps lost his confidence in letting the story head towards where it naturally seemed to be going. In fact, you can imagine the final scenes being tacked on to please audiences after a test.
What for the most part is a beautiful and realistic tale of coincidence, butterfly effect and the need for reason goes off the rails extremely near the end and veers into the realms of wishful thinking and pleasing the viewer that it worked so hard to highlight throughout the previous run time.
Nevertheless, this is a superior piece of ‘Scandi-thriller,’ which to my mind is often overly praised in the non-Scandinavian world. It highlights that when non-Hollywood, non-English speaking countries get it right, they really get it right.
Quirky, violent, sad and emotional, Riders of Justice is much more than just a ‘revenge against a vicious biker gang gun-play porn’ film.
Worth a look. If it happens to get remade in Hollywood, they will get it wrong, it is that type of film.