PG Score: 8/10
Riders of Justice is available for streaming and is being shown in select theaters.
Riders of Justice is one of the most unique medleys of hard-hitting action, pitch-black comedy, and affecting drama ever to grace the world of cinema. Benefiting from a stellar performance from Mads Mikkelsen, Writer/Director Anders Thomas Jensen (Adam’s Apples and The Green Butchers) once again demonstrates his expertise in genre-blending.
The Danish film follows deployed soldier Markus (Mikkelsen) as he returns home after his wife tragically dies in a train accident. As he struggles to connect with his daughter, Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), a survivor of the crash informs him that foul play may be to blame.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the movie is how it manages to tackle serious themes without sacrificing its clever humor. The quirky banter between the eccentric characters is not only entertaining but also extremely well-placed. These comical exchanges never lessen the impact of the heavy topics, which is even more impressive given their depth and relevance. Riders of Justice pushes the viewer to ponder difficult subject matter, but it also offers plenty of amusing conversations among endearingly strange characters during the two-hour runtime. The delicate balance that Jensen implements allows his latest project to efficiently cover significant ground plot-wise and appeal to a larger audience.
Those hungry for a healthy serving of action will certainly be sated as Markus unleashes a sizable amount of damage on the road to retribution. The vicious gunfights are well-choreographed and lengthy enough to get the adrenaline pumping. These sequences are enhanced by the philosophical issues at the root of the movie. Jensen encourages contemplation of the morality and implications of the protagonist’s fury.
Mads Mikkelsen is breathtaking as the rage-fueled and severely disturbed Markus. The BAFTA-nominated actor adds to his proven track record with another knockout performance. He portrays the mentally scarred main character with an astonishing level of detail and excels in conveying his pain using relatively little dialogue. The leading man also shines in the funny moments as he expertly plays off the more animated supporting characters. Markus genuinely craves a meaningful relationship with his daughter, Mathilde, but struggles to push past his anger and reach the emotional depths necessary to forge that bond. Mikkelsen captures the constant battle without missing a beat, and his mastery of communicating that dynamic is a highlight of Riders of Justice.
The supporting cast is exceptional, and every member is excellent in their assigned role. The fact that it is difficult to determine who stands out above the rest is a good problem to have. Markus is assisted by three highly intelligent, but socially inept individuals played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas as Otto, Lars Brygmann as Lennart, and Nicolas Bro as Emmenthaler. All three actors supply outstanding performances as they provide substantial comic relief, while also delivering in the dramatic scenes. Since Otto is one of the only characters who can get through to Markus, Kaas is part of a few poignant interactions with Mikkelsen, and these segments contain the film’s most powerful drama.
Considering the father-daughter relationship with Markus is such an integral part of Riders of Justice, Andrea Heick Gadeberg’s captivating acting as Mathilde is especially vital. She works well with Mikkelsen and her moving performance elevates the movie. Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt plays her boyfriend, Sirius, and portrays the interesting character with notable skill. The pair shares screen time with Gustav Lindh’s Bodashka, and the Beartown actor makes the most of a smaller role as his depiction of the traumatized character leaves a lasting impression.
An All-Around Triumph
Sidestepping virtually every revenge-thriller cliché in existence, Anders Thomas Jensen has conjured up a wholly distinctive and thoroughly entertaining cinematic powerhouse. Anchored by a brilliant cast led by Mads Mikkelsen, Riders of Justice is a film everyone should experience.