Anders Thomas Jensen action movie is charming, funny, and emotionally touching
This is the first film I’ve seen by Anders Thomas Jensen who wrote and directed ‘Riders of Justice’ an unexpected action film that has a fast pace and unexpected end. The movie is full of characters that are embrace quirks and individual motivations that all tie into a masterclass of how to make twisty turny drama for adults release on May 21st everywhere. Jensen (‘Adam’s Apple’ & ‘Men and Chicken’) has gathered a cast who meshed well together from working with him on previous movies led by Mads Mikkelsen.
From the moment it opens with the presentation on probability and predictability I did not see <cough> understand how it worked but as the movie progressed my mind began to get glimpses of how chance can be anticipated with the right data. Jensen is able to take the hard data science and make it the fascinating core of ‘Riders’. How every decision you and others make can affect not just you but others for good or bad sort of the ‘butterfly affect’. It’s what makes ‘Riders’ such a delightful revenge action flick. Riders starts with a kid wanting a new bike for Christmas and how it arrives on Xmas Day to classic holiday music that invokes the holiday spirit. Offering your seat has an unexpected consequence that has the survivor using his special skillset (and his friends) to figure out that it wasn’t an accident. His being dismissed and ignored by the police has another effect of them reaching out to a widower with a ‘certain skill set’.
Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg) and her mother Emma (Anne Birgitte Lind) decide to have a skip day from school after her bike is stolen and Markus (Mikkelson) calls to say that he’s extending his tour of duty. Emma takes Mathilde shopping in the city and a kindly stranger Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) who was having his own bad day gives up his seat to Emma on the subway. Otto feels guilty for switching seats and starts to investigate the accident using his program. Markus is called back to take care of his daughter but refuses any counseling causing both of them to spiral into grief.
Otto and his partner Lennart (Lars Brygmann) use their algorithm to figure out the probability of the accident and then rope in Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro) to assist with proving the theory that it was caused by the Riders of Justice to kill a former member snitching on criminal activity. After the police fail to listen to them they find Markus and tell him about their ‘proof’. The film goes into overdrive once they decide to take revenge for the death of Emma with the leader of the group as the prime target. While they plot vengeful mayhem as well as live out bully revenge fantasies Mathilde tries to figure out what happened on her own with her sweet creative boyfriend Sirius (Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt) giving her the emotional support desperately needed. They ‘rescue’ Bodashka (Gustav Lindh) a trafficked Ukrainian sex slave who brings some normalcy to the home while keeping Mathilde in the dark about the three strange men in the barn.
Jensen ties all these characters and enriching backstories all together with flights of comedy and a surprising emotional finale that was a delightful surprise. The cast truly benefited from working together in his past films that allowed a familiarity and also connection with the writer/director who was able to use their talent to the utmost. Mathilde being a teenager dealing with body image, embarking on ‘adulthood’ and the trauma of losing her mother was the ‘normal’ person in the house questioning what was going on but still a child needing approval for her lone surviving parent that has a hard time with emotions because of his PTSD.
I truly found Riders of Justice a delightful film. It had a great pace throughout the film and the humor broke up the violence as well as his care in flushing out the characters to better understand them. I look forward to seeing more of Jensen’s work as a writer and director and am adding his previous films to my ‘must-watch list’.