By Sean Blanford
It goes without saying that in life, nothing is guaranteed. One may never know what will happen at any given moment or how the action of a person that could be hundreds of miles away could impact your life in ways you couldn’t fathom and would have no way of stopping. In director Anders Thomas Jensen’s latest film Riders of Justice, he takes us on a journey that makes many big swings in tone and the message it is trying to get across in terms of handling grief, circumstance vs. probability, and personal trauma. By the end, it hits more than it misses.
After a tragic train accident leaves the mother of Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg) amongst those who died, her father Markus (Mad Mikkelsen) returns home from active duty to put their lives back in order. However, probability expert Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) doesn’t believe that this is a product of circumstance. Still, instead, it was a well-calculated hit job to take out a member of a notorious biker gang who was about to testify in the trial of the brother of the gang’s leader. To prove his theory correct, he enlists hacker extraordinaire Lennart (Lars Brygmann) and tech help from Emmenthaler (Nicholas Bro) to get this information to Markus. It leads to a part revenge thriller, part black comedy, part tragic drama, that somehow comes together to a sometimes chaotic but overall effect film.
The film is at its best when the four men involved have the opportunity to interplay off of one another and the father/daughter relationship between Mathilde and Markus. Mikkelsen gives a fantastic performance, as we have come to expect from him over the last decade, but Gadeberg gives it her all in only her second feature film in a role that could have been overtly melodramatic but instead feels genuinely heart-wrenching. Everyone has their own cracks that needed to be mended, whether it be a limp arm or a broken mind, but how the four of them come together is at the heart of the film. Yes, it is fantastic to see Mikkelsen break necks and go all Charles Bronson on some unsuspecting biker fools, but these emotional beats are what gives the film life. There is a bit of a twist that you will probably see coming, which made much of what happened in the third act and how the film resolves itself feel a bit anticlimactic and may leave you wondering why it needed to go the route it did. This point may seem like a “shut your brain off” kind of moment, but it didn’t take away too much from my enjoyment of the film as a whole.
With several solid performances and plot that keeps you invested throughout, Riders of Justice should be a film that is on your radar. It is in limited release starting today and going wide in the United States and Canada on May 21st.
Grade: 3.75/5 (B+)