The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - RIDERS OF JUSTICE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - RIDERS OF JUSTICE

riders of justice review
A grieving soldier teams up with three nerds to take down the biker gang responsible for his wife's death.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Anders Thomas Jensen

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lars Brygmann, Nicolas Bro

riders of justice poster

Hot on the heels of Another Round, Mads Mikkelsen returns for another very Danish exploration of masculinity and the Nordic male's inability to express his emotions. On the surface, the character he plays here – a bearded special forces soldier who can snap men's necks in a split second - couldn't be further apart from the timid school teacher he played in Thomas Vinterberg's comic drama. But scratch below that surface and the two men are simply two sides of the same coin. Where one uses alcohol to get through his pain, the other turns to gunplay. Lots and lots of gunplay.

Writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen (Men and Chicken) opens his film with a diversion to Tallinn, Estonia for a small incident that will unwittingly set the drama in  motion. An elderly man offers to buy a bike for his granddaughter, but she wants it in blue. The bicycle dealer assures the old man he can order a blue bike in time for Christmas. Cut to a Copenhagen street, where a thief saws the chain off just such a bike.

riders of justice review

Said bike belongs to teenager Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), who is then forced to take the train along with her mother. Riding the same train is Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), a data analyst who just lost his job for spending 42 weeks on a statistical analysis his employers found ultimately useless. Otto gives up his seat to Mathilde's mother, and seconds later the train crashes, killing everyone on the side of the train he just vacated, including Mathilde's mom.

Mathilde's father, Marcus (Mikkelsen), returns home from active service in the Middle East and struggles to adjust. He can't relate to his daughter, scolding her unhealthy eating habits and her desire to believe in an afterlife to cope with her loss. Their relationship is further damaged when he punches her boyfriend. Marcus simply doesn't know what to do when he doesn't have someone to lash out at.

Fortunately for Marcus, Otto is convinced the train crash wasn't an accident. Aboard the train was a member of a dangerous biker gang who was set to testify at an upcoming trial. His death means the gang leader gets off scott free. Coincidence? Otto doesn't believe in such things. The numbers don’t lie. Plus, he spotted a man throw an uneaten sandwich and a bottle of juice in the trash just before departing the train, seconds before the crash.

riders of justice review

Along with two fellow numbers nerds – Lennart (Lars Bryggman) and Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro) – Otto presents his theory to Marcus, who doesn't need much convincing. Soon the unlikely quartet is engaging in a rampage of bloody revenge, gunning down mobsters in the street and outside restaurants. But is it true that the numbers never lie? Is it a little too convenient that Marcus gets to cope with his loss in the only way he knows?

The Fast & Furious movies have long been mocked for all their superficial guff about "family", but Riders of Justice manages to pull off just what that blockbuster franchise fails to do – creating a surrogate, ragtag family we can buy into. When Otto, Lennart and Emmenthaler move into Marcus's home for their own safety, they become the fathers Mathilde needs while her own is too consumed with revenge. Mathilde is encouraged to express her grief, to drink fizzy drinks and eat cake, all the things her father suppressed. Marcus is forced to grin and bear it, unable to relate to this trio of men who have no problem crying in public and discussing their feelings and past traumas. Whenever they try to persuade Marcus to examine himself, he reacts by punching their lights out.

It's long been theorised that the biker gangs of Scandinavia are modern day equivalents of the Vikings, that they're indulging a long suppressed desire for raping and pillaging. The titular gang here certainly hold up that theory, but Jensen suggests that through his military service, Marcus is following the same instinct. Longships have been replaced by gunships and it's the Middle East that's being pillaged now rather than Northern Europe, but it's the same impulse. The Vikings probably believed they were bringing freedom to savages too.

riders of justice review

Amid all the grief and violence is a vein of black comedy. Even in the film's darkest moment – a third act revelation that suggests Marcus's killing spree may have been for nothing – Jensen interjects a comic aside that brilliantly turns our preconceptions inside out.

Whoever said revenge is a dish best served cold didn't have Riders of Justice in mind. Jensen takes the revenge thriller template and delivers one of the most warm-hearted movies you'll see all year.

Riders of Justice is in UK/ROI cinemas from July 23rd.

2021 movie reviews