#REVIEW: “RIDERS OF JUSTICE”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Markus (Mads Mikkelsen) has to return home suddenly from a tour in Afghanistan after his wife dies in a freak train accident. He does not get along with his daughter Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg) and spends his nights drinking and smoking. That is, until Mathematician and train passenger Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) shows up with two friends claiming the accident may have actually been a preplanned means of assassinating a government witness.
When I initially read about RIDERS OF JUSTICE, it sounded like an offbeat Comedy about a group of middle-aged men out for justice and all the hilarious shenanigans that ensue afterwards. After pressing play however, I immediately found myself bewildered by the entirely unfunny train accident that occurs within the first 20 minutes of the Film. I have to assume opening the Film so bleak was a deliberate choice by Oscar-winning Writer/Director Anders Thomas Jensen (collaborating with Mikkelsen and Kaas for the fifth time), because it quickly pivots afterwards into a darkly-comic Revenge Thriller filled with introspection on toxic masculinity, chaos theory and the like.
That may sound like a few too many themes to tackle in one movie – coupled alongside often-brutal violence no less – but Jensen wisely uses those deeper themes to propel the Film forward, spending most of his time diving into Markus’ damaged psyche, the influence he wields over Otto and the rest of the team and his fractured relationship with Mathilde. All the revenge stuff takes a back seat to Jensen’s examinations of Markus and the Supporting Cast, allowing the Film to go deeper than you might imagine. One specific moment between Otto and Mathilde left me gasping; not because of the originality of the observation, but because I had never thought of it in any way that resembled that stray thought ever before. Above everything, this just speaks to Jensen’s overarching message fueling RIDERS OF JUSTICE in that damaged men should seek therapy to sort out their internal issues, instead of letting it get to the dire point of the only solution resulting in an entire biker gang being murdered.
I mean that in the most sincere way possible and do not fault Jensen for fumbling in certain areas and dragging others out too long. Much like life itself, the Film and its characters are imperfect.
Speaking of those characters, the entire Cast is terrific in their roles and their chemistry is fantastic. Lars Brygmann and Nicolas Bro are wonderful in their supporting roles, landing the majority of the Film’s most hilarious moments. Gadeberg shines as Mathilde and Kaas really soars as Otto. The way the Film gradually works in his tragic backstory is a thing of beauty. Mikkelsen, as you might expect, is magnificent as Markus. He never reveals his full hand, even when we fully understand his character, remaining strong, stoic and mysterious throughout the picture. You can see and practically feel the seething rage and energy he unleashes across every frame. His raw, animalistic power never dissipates. I could barely look away every time he was on-screen.
RIDERS OF JUSTICE is easily one of my favourite films of the year so far. The way Jensen remixes themes and genres here is outstanding and the performances from his Cast are fantastic across the board. While I would have liked it to be more fine-tuned, this Film and its themes are going to stay with me for a long time.
Mongrel Media release RIDERS OF JUSTICE on Digital and On-Demand on Friday, May 21, 2021.