Riders of Justice - review: Finding reasons and explanations to live a harsh life
Spectacular new feature by Anders Thomas Jensen with Mads Mikkelsen in lead role opens 50th edition of IFFR
Blue bicycle gets stolen from a teen girl Mathilde (starring Andrea Heick Gadeberg). => Girl's father Markus (played by Mads Mikkelsen) calls her mother Præst (starring Natali Vallespir) to announce he will stay several more months as a soldier in a distant land. => Mother chooses to take daughter to school but the car gets broken. => As the car gets broken they decide to take a day off and go for a Christmas shopping. => They use the subway. => At the subway, a maths geek Otto (starring Nikolaj Lie Kaas) offers his seat to mother. => Tube accident happens, a mother dies, a father comes back home from the war fields. => Maths geek, out of guilt, makes a visit to war veteran father claiming that the whole subway accident was set up by a local biker gang.
The opening sequence of events in Riders of Justice the latest feature film by Anders Thomas Jensen, the prolific Danish writer and director leaps on a verge of a classic revenge action flick and a truly smart philosophical debate of predestination, causality, free will and coping with the existence. What develops in the following 2 hours is gloriously contained and well-developed film that manages to merge action-adventure, comedy and emotionally driven family drama all at once. If this was a Korean film, it wouldn't be such a big deal, we all got used to it in past several years from them, but this is a European film, to be precise Danish film and truth to be told it is one of a kind experience.
Sorrow in the pieces of a puzzle...
What makes this film so great is the well-developed ensemble of characters, the rag and tag crew of underdogs with plenty of baggage they can't resolve on their own. Besides Otto, who is driven by guilt and his past to find the solution to the subway accident, his two best friends, join PTSD driven soldier Markus on his vigilante killing spree. One of them is OCD softy programmer Lennart, while the other one is a chubby control freak with serious issues hacker Emmentaler (played by Lars Brygmann and Nicolas Bro), Throughout the film, the team gets joined by Russian sex slave Bodashka (starring Gustav Lindh) that has missed out his childhood and family closeness as he got sold by his mother.
Jensen's writer/director brilliance can be understood by carefully observing these characters. On one side, they all might have been constructed out of the shallow cliche's but the story and development they get throughout the film is what makes every single one of them unique and worth following/ carrying about. Jensen intertwines their pro's with con's of others, and by doing so manages to push further and further his story. By doing so he is simultaneously building up to action sequences or comic relief at the moments they are needed the most.
The functioning of multigenre dynamics of chaos
By giving a specific set of traits to his protagonists, as well as side characters, for example, Mathilde's boyfriend Sirius (starring Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt) director Jensen manages to build up the dynamics of the film, as well as the general relevance to the moment. There is no unneeded movement, there is no action that lasts too long, no emotionally charged developmental moment that is time-consuming or comedy moment that becomes cheap and overused. In Riders of Justice, there is always a break from a certain genre-a so the other can take over, and from the audience perspective, this is truly pleasing because there is enough time for a laugh, reflections, and adrenalin pumping throughout.
What I am grateful the most in this film is very well executed background story that is questioning of free-will/ predeterminism through simple, yet effective, mathematically driven existentialism. It might be completely unnoticeable by the general audience, but if there was a lack of it, surely this film wouldn't be what it is.
Is there a chance for distribution in current COVID-19 pandemic?
Ridders of Justice has opened up 50th edition of IFFR last night. If we were not living in the time of the pandemic, I would be free to say that this is the film that will rule the cinema's upcoming summer and will be talked about by pretty much everyone. As these are challenging times, the best I can say is that this surely is a movie to put down on a watch list and patiently wait for its distribution in the upcoming year.