Markus goes home to his teenage daughter, Mathilde, when his wife dies in a tragic train accident. It seems like an accident until a mathematics geek, who was also a fellow passenger on the train, and his two colleagues show up.
Mads Mikkelsen in a dark revenge thriller playing a soldier hunting down those responsible for killing his wife? Safe to say I was immediately sold even if the initial ‘Taken’ style premise has been done many times over the past few years (almost exclusively with Liam Neeson!). To narrow ‘Riders of Justice’ down to the above description however does a great disservice to a movie that has a lot more bubbling under the surface than a simple revenge thriller and I thought this was a really intriguing blend of several genres, held together by the magnetic Mikkelsen as always.
Mads Mikkelsen stars as Markus, a soldier in Afghanistan who comes home to console his grieving daughter after a subway train crash that killed Markus’s wife and left his daughter injured. Also on that train was a man called Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), a mathematics geek who deals in theoretical science, and he tracks Markus down to inform him that he believes the crash was no accident, and indeed was a carefully carried out plan by a criminal gang to take out a man who was going to testify against them. Grieving and wounded, Markus’s thirst for revenge is awakened and along with Otto and two of his colleagues (Lennart and Emmenthaler), they set out to track down the men they believe to be responsible.
‘Riders of Justice’ is tonally all over the place, but this is a rare occasion for me where it works. I think part of that is down to my liking for the Danish sensibility and approach to humour, and also in part due to Mikkelsen who is capable of anchoring comedy, action and tragedy, often moving between each seamlessly (see also ‘Another Round’). The tragedy of a grieving daughter and a grieving husband hangs over everything and we can see how it clouds judgements and there are some interesting thematic sidelines around how people choose to believe what they want to believe, in order to provide them with some comfort, control or answers over the situation they find themselves in. I thought ‘Riders of Justice’ was a quirky dark comedy with a plot that goes deeper than the initial premise perhaps suggests, and once again it proves the rule that a) if it has Mads Mikkelsen, and b) it’s a Danish movie, then it’s likely to be well worth watching.
Directed By: Anders Thomas Jensen
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lars Brygmann, Nicolas Bro and Andrea Heick Gadeberg