Riders Of Justice

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Riders Of Justice
"Mikkelsen anchors this movie with a performance that allows emotional turmoil to glint through Markus' regimented facade, playing off the impressive combination of anger and grief that Gaderberg brings to Mathilde." | Photo: Rolf Konow

There's a lot of talk about probability in this tonally unusual film from Danish director Anders Thomas Jensen but beneath the black comedy, violence and surprisingly touching moments of connection, it's the law of unintended consequences that rules proceedings.

The comedic vibe is signposted from the opening moments when a priest who looks for all the world like Santa Claus has an idle conversation about a bike for his young relative that sparks an event he, presumably, would never sanction. These sort of accidental triggers pepper the rest of the film as the tone shifts to tragedy and grief by way of absurdity and back again. The grief is, primarily, that experienced by Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), who unexpectedly - thanks to a handful of those little accidents, including the news that her soldier dad Markus (Mads Mikkelsen) won't be coming home from his warzone for months - finds herself on a train with her mum. In the same carriage is Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), who is also already having a bad day after losing his job as a statistician. Nevertheless he gives his seat to Mathilde's mum, only for the train to then be involved in a tragic accident.

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All of this sounds like traditional thriller territory and it is, but after Markus, who it is immediately evident is already a damaged goods dad, returns, Jensen performs the neat trick of cranking up the absurdity while still keeping a grip on the emotional turf war playing out between dad and daughter. The absurdity is provided by Otto and his computer nerd buddies Lennart (Lars Bryggmann) and Emmenthaler (Nicholas Bro), who turn up on Markus' doorstep claiming that the crash was no accident, thereby feeding into his thirst for vengeance. In order to hide all this from Mathilde, the trio pretend to be grief counsellors, a lie that turns out - thanks again to those unintended consequences - to hold more than a grain of truth.

If that all sounds like a lot of plot, there's plenty more to come as Markus mounts a one-man vengeance mission that the other three insert themselves into for good or ill. Mikkelsen anchors this movie with a performance that allows emotional turmoil to glint through Markus' regimented facade, playing off the impressive combination of anger and grief that Gaderberg brings to Mathilde. Otto, Emmenthaler and Lennart, meanwhile, provide an enjoyable "geek chorus", although Jensen evidently cares a lot about these three too, showing how they have also been shaped by events in their life over which they had no control. The mixture of brutality and surprising heartfelt home truths may not be for everyone but Otto would tell you there's a high probability it will win you over.

Reviewed on: 25 Jul 2021
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Markus has to go home to his teenage daughter, Mathilde, when his wife dies in a tragic train accident - or so it seems until a mathematics geek, who was also a fellow passenger on the train, and his two colleagues show up.
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Director: Anders Thomas Jensen

Writer: Nikolaj Arcel, Anders Thomas Jensen

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Lars Brygmann, Nikolaj Lie Kaas

Year: 2020

Runtime: 114 minutes

Country: Denmark

Festivals:

Glasgow 2021

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