Maybe you have seen the previous four collaborations with Mads Mikkelsen and director Anders Thomas Jensen, or maybe this is your first experience with their work. Either way “Riders of Justice” is more than just a Danish action film, it’s so creative that it’s making its way into the mainstream movie world here in the United States.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Mikkelsen, who effortlessly slips between Danish films and American flicks, was just in the film that took home the Academy Award for Best International Feature.
“Riders of Justice” is the type of crime action thriller we wish America would make. It leans somewhere between David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence” and The Coen Brothers “Fargo.” While Mikkelsen (“Rogue One,” “Doctor Strange”) is unequivocally great as usual, it’s the writing and unpredictability of this story taking center stage.
Following the tragic death of his wife, Markus (Mikkelsen), a soldier in Afghanistan returns home to Estonia to comfort his traumatized teenage daughter Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg). Following the funeral, he is approached by two unassuming tech junkies, Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and Lennart (Lars Brygmann) who present him with evidence that his wife’s death was not an accident.
Markus is a man of few words, he emotes with rage and violence, and the news that someone is to blame for his tragedy provides an outlet for his fury. Otto and Lennart bring on another hacker friend Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro), who completes their three stooge moniker.
The accused party is a local gang known as Riders of Justice, and a witness, set to testify against the group’s leader, died along side Markus wife in the accident.
The trailer or even my description of the film doesn’t do it justice. In the trailer, you won’t see how sarcastically funny the film is. It’s laugh out loud hilarious in parts without being stupid. Same for the violence, it’s cringe-worthy and edge-of-the-seat type suspense that works in sync with the lighter moments.
Mikkelsen is no stranger to villains or in this case, unlikeable characters. It’s how the script and his performance entice the audience to root for him after his repeated mishandling of every situation.
Mikkelson’s work in American films is typically the villain role. He will replace Johnny Depp in “Fantastic Beasts,” and he will be Indiana Jones’ foe in that upcoming installment. It’s his non-English speaking work where he excels as an actor, i.e. “The Hunt” or recently “Arctic.”
Weapons training has never been more hysterical than “Riders of Justice,” the carefully placed comedy in the film certainly has its payoff. In fact, the film gets so bonkers and random along the way, the revenge element to which everything is based on, fades to the background.
Kudos to the director and writing team for selling us an action movie that allows the audience to invest more in the characters than the shootouts or the violence. You will be hard pressed to find a more satisfying new release this week, in English or otherwise.
Final Thought: Repetitive American action films could learn a thing or two from “Riders of Justice.”