By Adam Ray Palmer
The Glasgow Film Festival usually serves up a random, hi-tempo foreign language film that just ends up being bat-sh*t crazy… in 2021, it’s Riders of Justice.
Last year it was the Icelandic movie Eden, and this year it’s Denmark’s finest from the writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen.
Starring an array of Danish talent including Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Roland Møller and more; Riders of Justice follows recently deployed Markus (Mikkelsen), who is forced to return home to care for his teenage daughter after his wife is killed in a tragic train accident.
Tensions and emotion run high for the widowed husband when a survivor of the wrecked train along with two colleagues start claiming potential foul play. What ensues is journey of discovery in more ways than one. Markus firstly has to build a deeper connection with his daughter in obvious heart-breaking circumstances, but he also suspects his wife was murdered and decides to embark on a mission to find those responsible.
From the off, Anders Thomas Jensen's crowd-pleasing film has an undeniable pull. It has intrigue, humour and family moral dilemma, albeit a little too forced. What I mean by that is… we have seen it all before. The film borderlines the more ridiculousness rather than trying to be at least a little bit tangible.
Riders of Justice plays out like its parent movies were Ocean’s Eleven and Luc Besson’s Taken. The build-up to the climatic finale is very much like the former narrative, only the loot is 22 gang members’ lives rather than millions of dollars. And then where Taken comes in, well it could well be an adapted Danish version to be honest. He ‘must’ avenge his wife’s death and so he goes on a killing rampage with a “specific set of skills”.
As the film progresses toward its obvious destination, the comedy versus the seriousness of the father/daughter relationship collides and ends up jarring the movie as a whole. It can be a little messy when you are trying to force too many emotions into a, let’s face it, a violent Bruce Willis-esque thriller.
Mads and the supporting casts’ chemistry and the more nerve-racking scenes propel the action forward, but it still feels a little short of being revenge killing classic. The well-staged stunts alongside Mikkelsen’s steely performance just about holds the two-hour feature together. This will be well-placed as a “beers on a late Saturday night” type of viewing.
Cineroom’s rating: 3 stars
Riders of Justice debuted at the Glasgow Film Festival on 26th February and yet to find a UK distributor at present.