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  Riders of Justice The Confusion Of Empowerment
Year: 2020
Director: Anders Thomas Jensen
Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Lars Brygmann, Nicolas Bro, Gustav Lindh, Roland Moller, Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt, Anne Birgitte Lind, Omar Shargawi, Jacob Lohmann, Henrik Noel Olesen, Gustav Giese, Klaus Hjuler
Genre: Comedy, Drama, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Funny how one event can run into another, and before long you have a chain reaction. A girl in Denmark wants a bicycle for a Christmas present, but she wants a blue one and all the vendor has is a red one. Therefore to ensure the sale, a criminal gang steals a blue bike owned by Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), which leaves her unable to ride to school, and when her mother tries to drive her, the car has broken down. Not only that, but her father, soldier Markus (Mads Mikkelsen), phones then to tell them he will not be returning home from assignment in North Africa any time soon, so to cheer her up, Mathilde's mother takes her on a trip to town. On the train. Which suffers an accident.

The material of coincidences was what concerned co-writer and director Anders Thomas Jensen here, in what appeared to be gearing up to be a high octane revenge thriller, like many before it, yet gradually adapted into something far stranger, sadder and oddly, more hilarious than you could ever have anticipated. That train which the accident happened on: what if it was a deliberate incident? That's what analyst Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) realises, as he is an expert in statistics and he was in the carriage that was hit the hardest, indeed, he gave up his seat to Markus's wife and if he had not, he would be dead and the woman still alive, giving him a serious case of guilty conscience - again, as it turns out.

The more details we get to fill in, the more we understand, but just like contemporary conspiracy theories, the more you add to attain the bigger picture, the further into madness you can easily spiral, and this was the format Jensen adopted for his story. The more you know, the more misguided you can get as you try to stuff every little point into your grand theory, something we have seen Otto do at his work, for which he is fired for simultaneously stating the bleedin' obvious and wasting precious resources on increasingly meaningless data. But if he had not had to go home early, he would not have been on that particular train, and so his need to see patterns in life leads him to the troubled Markus.

The reason for that is, Otto recognised someone before the crash happened, a gang leader (who may have something to do with bicycle thefts) who was due to testify against his fellow criminals in court in a couple of weeks' time. Putting two and two together with the help of fellow misfits Lennart (Lars Brygmann) and Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro) who act as invaluable researchers, but also pathetic enablers, Otto realises that statistically it would be incredibly likely that the gang leader was assassinated, and his gang, The Riders of Justice (who assuredly are not our heroes), are responsible for the deaths of the people on the train. The police won't listen, he sounds like a crackpot, but when he approaches Markus he finds a sympathetic, if gruff, ear and so a scheme is drawn up to work out their own investigation - and their own justice.

What distinguishes these modern males is that they are holding it together on the outside, yet inside they are broiling cauldrons of neuroses and insecurities. The three middle-aged nerds have never gotten over past traumas, be that bullying (which they still suffer) or more calamitous incidents they were responsible for, but Markus is suffering too, as he is incapable of grieving properly no matter how Mathilde implores him to get help. Therefore when he has a project - to track down the men responsible for the death of his wife - he throws himself into it with psychopathic gusto, a good man to have on your side in a fight, but bear in mind he may well have landed you in that fight in the first place. With a multitude of unexpected twists and seemingly throwaway jokes and dramatic bits, Jensen filled his movie with so much it was in danger of bursting at the seams and splurging all over, but the fact it didn't, and that it ended up being so bizarrely profound on masculinity and all its drawbacks, crafted a beautifully performed farce with weighty implications that will resonate with many. Music by Jeppe Kaas.

[Riders of Justice is released in cinemas from Friday 23rd July 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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