Director: Anders Thomas Jensen
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Lars Brygmann, Nicolas Bro
Everyone’s favourite Dane (Mads Mikkelsen obviously) is back on the big screen in new dark comedy-drama Riders of Justice. After showing off his drinking ability and dance moves in Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round, which should be hopefully arriving on UK screens soon, Mikkelsen is staying close to home with another Danish production, this time directed by Anders Thomas Jensen.
Riders of Justice actually triumphed over Another Round at the box office to become the film with the best selling opening weekend in Denmark last year, but how does the quality of the Danish dramas compare? The film sees Mikkelsen’s character, Markus suddenly called home from his military duties after a tragic accident involving his family.
However, with the help of an extremely intelligent stranger, Otto, who was also caught up in the same accident, the pair, along with some of Otto’s friends comes to the conclusion that this accident may have been anything but that, and they hatch a plan to seek revenge on those that caused it.
Revenge with a Side of Comedy
Riders of Justice feels like what might happen if the Coen Brothers were to direct a John Wick movie. It’s definitely an odd film, one that balances a multitude of tones and dips into several genres at any one time.
What starts out as a family drama quickly turns into an action revenge style story while also injecting comedy throughout; this has very mixed results but more often than not it actually kind of works. However, while for the majority of the time it is a success this combination of genres doesn’t always run smoothly and over the nearly two hour long runtime there are moments where cracks begin to appear.
The more serious elements of the crime and family drama in the screenplay make the film feel quite grounded and then the more bizarre moments of comedy can do the reverse and it’s this contrast which sometimes holds the film back.
The Unusual Suspects in Riders Of Justice
One thing that never holds the film back though is Mikkelsen as he is essential in making the more action heavy moments effective, his undeniable screen presence brings a gravitas to these moments that the rest of the cast just wouldn’t be capable of. However, where they show their strength is in the more comical moments of the screenplay.
A very amusing collection of characters has been assembled here with Otto and his friends providing the most comedy of the cast. It’s very stereotypical but it’s funny to see these more nerdy characters dive into the violent criminal world where Markus feels infinitely more comfortable; this contrast is certainly taken advantage of when it comes to tapping into the comedic potential of the film and Riders of Justice is all the better for it.
The cast have a wonderful chemistry together and their ridiculous back and forth disputes are always entertaining. Although, as already mentioned the only time this sometimes becomes a problem is when this type of dialogue doesn’t feel relevant or appropriate within the wider context of the narrative.
Nonetheless, this variety in the cast and collection of characters means that Riders of Justice is rarely dull and remains very watchable for its entire running time.
Dane and Dusted
These eventful proceedings of the film build to a violent and spirited finale that delivers the best of what Riders of Justice has to offer the action genre. However, it’s insistence to mix and match so many varying tones and attempt to cover several genres, while often successful in the moment, fails to make it memorable enough to really become a classic in any one genre.
It’s something different and should offer a change of pace from audiences’ normal viewing, however without Mikkelsen’s commanding leading performance Riders of Justice might not have managed to sell its kooky combination of characters and storylines just as well. So while Riders of Justice might have won the opening weekend box office battle and certainly has its merits, Another Round most definitely wins the war of the Mads Mikkelsen Danish dramas, but sure, why not go watch both and decide for yourself!
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