🇩🇰 RIDERS OF JUSTICE 🇩🇰
Riders of Justice aka Retfærdighedens ryttere (2020) is a Danish feature film. Available on Sky U.K., Hulu USA, AppleTV Aus & Can. 1 hr 56 min. It is an action comedy-drama. In Danish with English subtitles.
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 as Markus
Nikolaj Lie Kaas as Otto
Andrea Heick Gadeberg as Mathilde
Lars Brygmann as Lennart
Nicolas Bro as Emmentaler
Gustav Lindh as Bodashka
Roland Møller as Kurt
Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt as Sirius
Anne Birgitte Lind as Emma
Omar Shargawi as Palle Olesen
Jacob Lohmann as Kenneth
Henrik Noël Olesen as Noah
Director: Anders Thomas Jensen
Idea: Nikolaj Arcel
Writer: Anders Thomas Jensen
Composer: Jeppe Kaas
Cinematographer: Kasper Tuxen
Editor: Anders Albjerg Kristiansen, Nicolaj Monberg
Visual/Special Effects: Peter Hjorth, Hummer Højmark
This film is the 5th in a row as a collaboration between Anders Thomas Jensen, Mads Mikkelsen and Nikolaj Lie Kaas.
It took Mads Mikkelsen 2 months to grow his beard during which time he managed to add 14 pounds of muscle.
Gustav Lindh is the only Swedish actor in this production and he plays a Ukrainian.
There is a scene where Mads Mikkelsen’s character smashes his head into a bathroom mirror; he did actually do this! With approval from the director and insurance company, the stunt coordinator put a protective cover over the glass. With no padding behind it, Mads managed two takes headbutting it (he planned to do four). He then set about wrecking the rest of the bathroom.
A multi-award-winning film with Mads Mikkelsen in the lead and a very impressive supporting cast you say? Having followed the progress of this film when it was released noticing its appearance on Sky Cinema it seemed too much of a good thing to turn down.
The basic story of Riders of Justice is one of revenge. But you know what they say: “Seek revenge and you should dig two graves, one for yourself”. Would that be the case with this movie which starts with an “accident” (or accident) on a train and the death of a beloved mother?
Rather than looking at the way this revenge tale plays out I am going to dip into some of the most important aspects of this film and what I really connected with.
Firstly, this is a story of men who are misfits in ordinary society, the outsiders, the geeks and freaks, the bullied and abused and the not so perfect. This includes Markus himself who far prefers to be in combat duty to being at home with his wife and daughter. This continues to be his point of reference following his return home after the tragedy. These men find themselves as part of a strange “Band of Brothers”. When Mathilde comments that there is something “off” she is not wrong!
Masculinity, how is it perceived and defined? Men who resort to violence to avenge a death rather than taking help offered to recover and “move on”. Decisions and actions have results and repercussions “What have we ever done to you?” rings in the ears of the oblivious (or possibly innocent…)
You have the irony of two youngsters trying to persuade a “strong” adult warrior to seek psychiatric help.
Parts of this film are outrageously funny and it is this humour that acts as a great counterbalance to the dark aspects of the story. I laughed out loud at punches in the face, assembly of weapons, stripping off trousers in a field etc.
The cast in this is all fantastic, even those in minor parts, such as Roland Møller (vicious motorcycle club leader) and Jacob Lohmann (not the sharpest tool in the shed Kenneth). Nicolas Bro is hilarious as Emmentaler (a name choice you just know will elicit at least one joke), his comedic timing, expressions and handshake had me in fits of giggles. Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Otto) is nigh on unrecognisable as the data geek who feels guilty over the death. Lars Brygmann is equally unrecognisable as Lennart gives a fabulous wide-ranging and nuanced performance and I absolutely loved his counselling sessions.
Mads Mikkelsen’s performance is outstanding!
All the characters have an element of tragedy in their lives. The young Ukrainian sex worker Bodashka is no exception and he too finds a family.
The fights and shoot-outs have some amazing visual effects such as when the bullets explode through car windows! The weapons training was such a great combination of hilarity and incredulity with a bit of “oh that’s a bit scary”. It’s all fun and games until the real shooting starts, and then it is quite clear that yes, Markus has killed before and more than once. Has he killed the innocent before… this remains an open question but his reaction to this very thing is horrendously volcanic and upsetting.
I loved the music score and the soundtrack in this film. The music matches so perfectly the different tones and events, really enhancing the atmosphere. Integral to this also is the excellent sound design.
The cinematography and editing are of the highest quality and especially with comedy the editing does not kill the gags. The writing of Riders of Justice is superb making me laugh out loud and yet also hitting those emotional high notes.
One of the most important scenes (as in one to make you think) is where Mathilde has it explained to her by Otto that it is utterly pointless to put up post-it notes of the sequence of events that lead to her mother dying in the accident. The whole idea of a butterfly effect to a single incident while disregarding nigh on infinite other interrelated actions and events. Trying to “make sense” of an incident like this, trying to find The Cause and apportion guilt or blame is ultimately a fruitless (and damaging) task.
Riders of Justice is bookended by a girl and a bike. It is not a random and minor choice as she rides around on the blue bike that Mathilde had stolen…
I can highly recommend Riders of Justice as a very entertaining, hilariously funny, poignant, tragic and at times very shocking movie which not only entertains but also gives food for thought. I think it even counts as a Christmas movie!
7 Wins & 25 Nominations ~
Bodil Award (2021) Best Supporting Actor ~ Lars Brygmann
Danish Film Awards (Robert, 2021) Best Supporting Actor ~ Lars Brygmann; Best Actress ~ Andrea Heick Gadeberg; Best Original Score ~ Jeppe Kaas; Best Visual Effects ~ Hummer Højmark, Peter Hjorth
Florida Film Festival (2021) Audience Award, Best International Feature ~ Anders Thomas Jensen
Zulu Awards (2021) Best Actor ~ Mads Mikkelsen
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