Mads Mikkelsen is out for revenge in Danish thriller Riders of Justice
RIDERS OF JUSTICE (15, 116 mins) Thriller/Action/Comedy. Mads Mikkelsen, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lars Brygmann, Nicolas Bro, Gustav Lindh, Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt, Roland Moller, Anne Birgitte Lind. Director: Anders Thomas Jensen.
Released: July 23
BOOKENDED by scenes of festive cheer set to a jaunty rendition of The Little Drummer Boy, Riders Of Justice serves revenge ice cold with a generous drizzle of ghoulish black humour courtesy of writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen.
The Danish filmmaker has worked predominately as a scriptwriter, traversing myriad genres with aplomb including his powerhouse collaborations with Susanne Bier on Open Hearts, Brothers and After The Wedding.
His latest meditation on masculinity convenes a motley crew of idiosyncratic, eccentric and tormented misfits, who would struggle to exist plausibly on their own in anyone else's imagination.
The diversity of this frequently combative brotherhood warrants a passing on-screen comment – "Sometimes, I think people with problems band together" – before Jensen peels onion-like layers of grief, bullying and sexual abuse from his characters and exposes their most primal fears.
A fiercely committed portrayal of tightly coiled rage and militaristic machismo from Mads Mikkelsen energises every frame and complements some of the script's more outlandish conceits like a running joke about unconventional therapeutic practices that reap surprisingly sweet rewards.
The train crash, which sets desperate blood-soaked events in motion, is orchestrated with economical flair from the perspective of unfortunate passengers, who reach the end of the line just as Jensen's film is picking up speed.
Shortly before he extends a tour of duty in the Middle East, taciturn soldier Markus (Mikkelsen) learns his wife Emma (Anne Birgitte Lind) has been killed in a railway collision. He sombrely returns to Denmark to comfort teenage daughter Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), one of the shell-shocked survivors.
Statistician Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), who gave up his seat on the train to Emma and consequently survived, becomes convinced that the accident was the result of foul play.
His data indicates it was no coincidence that a prominent biker gang member, due to testify against the Riders Of Justice brotherhood led by Kurt "Tandem" Olesen (Roland Moller), was among the 11 fatalities.
Otto and fellow number cruncher Lennart (Lars Brygmann) approach Kurt with their findings.
"I think you have the right to know it wasn't an accident," discloses Otto.
They recruit hacker pal Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro) to gather more evidence, setting in motion a bloodthirsty revenge mission that ensnares Mathilde's boyfriend Sirius (Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt) and a Ukrainian sex worker (Gustav Lindh).
Riders Of Justice steadily builds tension as Markus and his comrades enact their daredevil plan to punish anyone they hold accountable for the crash.
Jensen's off-kilter sense of humour keeps us on our toes but when it comes to tying up loose narrative threads, he surrenders to a heavily armed conventional final showdown.
In cinematic punctuation, a fresh bullet wound doubles neatly for a full stop.