Riders of Justice

A scene from "Riders of Justice" with (left to right) Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lars Brygmann, and Mads Mikkelsen.  Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen. (Photo Credit:ROLF KONOW courtesy of Magnet Releasing)

Review

RIDERS OF JUSTICE (2021)

Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Lars Brygmann, Nicolas Bro, Gustav Lindh, Roland Møller, Anne Birgitte Lind

Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen

In “Riders of Justice” one badass and three oddballs come together after a tragic subway accident. Mads Mikkelsen plays Markus, a hardened military soldier who loses his wife in the train tragedy and is now forced to raise his teenage daughter alone. When a group of intelligent misfits approaches him with news that the deadly catastrophe may have been a planned attack, Markus sets out to find those responsible. This is not just another revenge thriller. There is plenty of heart and humor in the film by Danish director Anders Thomas Jensen who marks his fifth collaboration with Mikkelsen.

Every action causes a reaction. In ‘Riders of Justice” a stolen bicycle sets off the chain of events that lead to tragedy and violence, but also reconciliation and serendipity.

Just as Markus, a member of the Danish military, is getting ready to head home, his tour of duty in Afghanistan is extended. He phones his wife Emma (Anne Birgitte Lind) to report the bad news, the final setback of an ominous trifecta that began with teenage daughter Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg) discovering her bike had been stolen, followed by Emma’s car not starting, and now the bad news. To cheer up her daughter, Emma suggests they walk to the train station and take the day off to go shopping.

Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) is a mathematics whiz who just created an algorithm with his partner Lennart (Lars Brygmann) that unfortunately proves what most of us already know; People with low incomes are more prone to drive a Hyundai or Fiat, while those with high incomes drive a Mercedes and Audi. It took 46 weeks of work to come up with those stats and now the two find themselves out of a university research job.

Emma and Mathilde cross paths with Otto when he gives up his seat to Emma on an overcrowded commuter train. Moments later an explosion rips the train wide open killing Emma instantly. Just before the tragic event, Otto noticed one of the passengers was a man set to testify against the Riders of Justice criminal gang. So, was this a terrorist attack by the group to take out a snitch? Otto crunches the numbers and the laws of probability say “Yes.”

Feeling survivor’s remorse after switching places with Emma, Otto tracks down her husband Markus, and together with Lennart, and computer whiz Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro), they approach him with news that they believe the train accident was a planned attack, not an accident. They even have a suspect who may be the mastermind behind the blast.

Markus becomes a killing machine, using his military training to take out members of the Riders of Justice with the help of the three wise nerds with hearts of gold who use their tech skills to pinpoint the gang’s whereabouts. Mathilde believes the three men are therapists helping her dad get over the death of Emma (and in a way they are) which makes the teenager happy since Markus objected to the notion of bringing in professionals to help them cope — he believes time can eventually heal all wounds — however, in order to make the ruse convincing Otto starts holding therapy sessions with Mathilde which leads to some funny moments. The film finds most of its humor in the contrast between the fearless and apathetic nature of Markus and the apprehensive and compassionate makeup of his kooky sidekicks.

Mikkelsen pulls a 180, going from the charming high school teacher in 2020’s Oscar-nominated “Another Round,” to playing the scruffy, bearded, military dad who doesn’t believe in God and the afterlife. The chameleon-like actor absorbs the role of Markus delivering another first-class performance as the no-nonsense avenger whose disposition is just as batty as his new friends and more dangerous. Andrea Heick Gadeberg is excellent in the film as the only character grounded in reality. “Riders of Justice” combines action with humor while its tender side attempts to dominate the narrative with “The Little Drummer Boy” bookending the film.

(3 ½ stars)

Now showing in Austin at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and available PVOD

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic. 

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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