Directed by: Anders Thomas Jensen
Distributed by: Nordisk Film
Written by Livvy O’Brien
I’m not the kind of person to choose an action film over a good ol’ reliable drama. It’s just not my preference. But I went into “Riders of Justice” with an open mind, hoping to get some enjoyment from it. I have no clue why, but I’m always hesitant to begin a Thomas Anders Jensen film and I shouldn’t be because I am proven wrong every single time. For example, I was sceptical that I would enjoy two of his previous films “Adams Apples” and “The Green Butchers.” Nonetheless, I watched both and found that their synopses did not do them credit, but I also questioned what type of synopsis would, and I came to the conclusion that Jensen’s films are so brilliant that they cannot be summarised into a couple of constricting phrases. One must simply watch his films without passing judgement beforehand. There is something indescribable about his work, he spawns such creativity. He knows his audience and manages to touch on many emotions.
In “Riders of Justice,” due to a series of unfortunate events, Markus’ (Mads Mikkelsen) time in the army is cut short when he learns that his wife, Emma (Anne Birgitte Lind), has died in a train accident forcing him to return home to care for their daughter, Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg). Markus sets out to exact vengeance on those responsible for his wife’s death, while also attempting to reconnect with his daughter after spending so much time away from her. He encounters Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), who comes to him with survivor’s guilt because he gave his seat to Emma on the train. His friends Lennart (Lars Brygmann) and Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro) accompany him as they believe they can help him on his quest for revenge. As a result, they add a lighthearted, comedic element to the film. Even in such a dark context, Jensen manages to add humour that is actually funny and not forced.
Jensen employs his long-time muses, Mikkelsen and Kaas, and transforms them into almost unrecognisable characters. “Because he’s [Mikkelsen] so handsome, I try to do him not so handsome,” Jensen contends. When compared to Jensen’s other films, such as “The Green Butcher,” where Mikkelsen is seen sporting a receding hairline and a sweaty face, Markus’ appearance in “Riders of Justice” is ordinary. Hollywood usually takes one look at Mikkelsen and thinks “Supervillian” which creates a pigeonhole of new roles for him to be typecast as. In contrast to his own country, the Danes construct complicated and unique characters, which Mikkelsen flawlessly portrays.
Every character is as essential as the next, each with its own set of challenges and difficulties to overcome. Jensen ensures that everyone’s arcs are completed, leaving the viewers satisfied that all of the characters have been recognised and included. Although Otto, Lennart and Emmenthaler are considered to be “The Three Stooges” of the group, they’re never treated as the butt of the joke. The film delves into the complicated nature of humans and how we attempt to find connections and coincidences in seemingly unrelated events, but ultimately learn to accept the fact that unfortunate things happen. Markus is unaware that he has been ignoring the one person who requires him the most, his daughter. Until he recognises that fatal occurrences, like his wife’s train disaster, are sporadic and happen without reason, as difficult as they are, can he restore his and Mathilde’s weak father-daughter relationship. Trauma, anger, friendship and grief are prominent themes in “Riders of Justice” so if you’re in the mood to watch an action film that’s not just an action-filled film, I highly recommend watching this. When these men finally accept that they need to seek help, their life becomes significantly better. Who would have thought?
“Riders of Justice” Trailer
You can follow Livvy O’Brien on Letterboxd.