Men And Chicken

***1/2

Reviewed by: Luke Shaw

Men And Chicken
"Its disgusting surface is supported by a framework that’s more intelligent than in plenty of prettier films."

Cinema is often the home of flawless looks, a surface gloss that invites us to analyse the cracks in its veneer - if drama is those cracks, then it only makes sense that the people that help us stomach the unseemly partings are shiny and perfect. As every inch of a star is analysed, whether they are small screen or big screen fare, unattainable perfection can begin to seem uncanny, and perhaps eventually grate.

Thomas Anders Jensen understands the appeal of the bizarre. He knows the comfort of the lumpen and the misshapen, the desire for the cracks to run through all of the surface, not just in the drama. He has previously taken tanned, statuesque adonis Mads Mikkelsen and turned him into an uptight, misguided religious zealot in Adam’s Apples, but his decision to cast him as the grotesque, harelipped man-child Elias in Men & Chicken is both a signalling of his desire to appeal to the salt of the earth, and an indication of his gonzo humour.

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Men & Chicken is a brazen black comedy that takes its cues from the stable of the Three Stooges, Bottom, and Reeves & Mortimer, whilst also passing through the bizarre corridors of Kafka and Re-Animator style Lovecraft. The story concerns two brothers, Gabriel (David Denick) and Elias (Mikkelsen), who find out via an oddly inappropriate videotape that their recently deceased father was not their biological father. This leads them to the island of Ork and their dilapidated ancestral home, where they have an unexpected and violent meeting with their new found brothers Gregor, Franz and Josef.

The rest of the film is an analysis of the peculiarities and grotesquery of nature in both man and animal, and the uncomfortable and unbreakable ties that bind family together. A menagerie of farm yard animals co-inhabits the broken house (including plenty of chickens) and the brothers all display animal tendencies that correspond to the decorated plates that they argue over during diner.

Those who favour the highbrow over the slapstick may find Anders' physical comedy tiresome, especially as the brothers beat each other senseless with stuffed animals and other bizarre detritus, but there’s a smart streak running through the film too. Its disgusting surface is supported by a framework that’s more intelligent than in plenty of prettier films. Fans of Mads will still find some joy in his portrayal as a compulsive masturbator, as he still carries a kind of lopsided charm, and at its best Anders' script digs into the muck to pick out nuggets of compassion and humanity from its cast of misfits.

Whilst the light Cronenbergian overtones of the mystery at the centre of the house may be too heavily telegraphed to shock, the uncomfortable scenes in both a nursery and a palliative care home carry the real shock factor of the film. It’s a curious vehicle that has no real empathetic characters - they’re all disgusting either inside or out - but it is perhaps a more accurate mirror than the shattered screen that cinema often deliriously reflects back at us.

Reviewed on: 10 Jul 2016
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Men And Chicken packshot
Black comedy about a pair of brothers who discover a dark family secret.
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