Review: ‘Riders of Justice’ is dark, funny, and affecting

Everyone processes grief differently. Some people turn inward, looking for answers to complex equations that only prove that everything happens by chance. Others direct their rage outward to avoid confronting any other feelings. Sometimes, these two people team up and go on a revenge spree. You know, as you do.

Riders of Justice begins on a train. Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg) and her mother, Emma (Anne Birgitte Lind), are on their way to a cheat day together after discovering that her father –Markus (Mads Mikkelsen)–, has had his tour in the military extended by a further three months. Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), a kind-hearted mathematician, insists on giving up his seat for Emma. At that moment, their train collides with another, killing Emma and everyone else along the right side of the train.

Markus returns home to be with his daughter and grieve, but being the stoic soldier that he is, he either doesn’t know-how or isn’t willing to. Eventually, Otto arrives and lets Markus know that he has done the math. The accident wasn’t an accident; it was an orchestrated assassination, and that Emma was collateral damage. Together –with Otto’s friends Lennert (Lars Brygmann) and Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro)– they set out on a quest for vengeance.

Much of the narrative centres on each of the characters outlet for their emotions and finding new connection in the aftermath of tragedy. For Markus, his only apparent outlet is action and rage, and Mads Mikkelsen gives an excellent performance as this man teetering on the knife-edge between explosive rage and all-consuming grief.

Nikolaj Lie Kaas is also great as Otto, a man who has enough knowledge to realize that everything is connected but also that everything happens by chance, but who also has some deep-seated guilt in his past that he is trying to make up for.

Lars Brygmann, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and Nicolas Bro / Riders of Justice

Riders of Justice is veritable who’s who of Danish talent. While Mikkelsen is certainly the best known here in North America, Nikolaj Lie Kaas has won his fair share of Robert Awards (Denmarks highest film award). Rolland Møller (who has recently crossed over to North America with Atomic Blonde and The Commuter, among others) is also here having a good time as the bad guy.

While the performances are great, the action is nothing to slouch at either. The violence is quick, brutal, precise, and efficient. These are the kinds of scenes that make one wish that maybe Mikkelsen should be the next guy to star in a series of dad-aged Action movies a la Liam Neeson. It’s also quite funny, with some dark humour punctuating the violence and as the makeshift family comes together, genuine heartfelt, hilarious moments that can only happen between characters that care about one another.

Riders of Justice is easily one of the best films of this year so far. It’s full of great performances, great moments, and great action. Check it out as soon as you can.

Rating: 4/5

Riders of Justice is available on demand now.

Photo Credit: Rolf Konow


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