Riders of Justice (2021; Anders Thomas Jensen)
By Daniel Barnes
*Now playing in select cinemas and on VOD services.
Mikkelsen Goes Mads-eval
Riders of Justice is revenge therapy, Danish style, as Mads Mikkelsen goes Mads-eval on the asses of the white supremacists who may have killed his wife.
Mikkelsen plays Markus, a grey-bearded military badass who returns home to his estranged daughter following his wife’s death in a subway crash. The police instantly dismiss the crash as an accident, but a probability-obsessed crash survivor named Otto suspects otherwise. When Otto’s investigation leads to a white supremacist gang called Riders of Justice, he brings his findings to Markus, who is all too eager to go to work on the homes with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch.
With the tersely violent Markus playing straight man to Otto and his posse of computer nerds, the film takes on a darkly quirky tone. It’s like a Coen Brothers version of Death Wish, only directed with the sledgehammer touch of Peter Berg. I’m here for it if writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen goes for it, but while entertaining enough, Riders of Justice never settles on a lane.
The film wants to have it all ways, both celebrating and tut-tutting Markus’ casual slaughter. However, hand-wringing questions about the therapeutic quality of revenge seem hollow when placed next to a banquet of easily waste-able straw-man villains. Meanwhile, eager-to-please sequences like Markus pretending to his grieving daughter that his dweeby co-conspirators are “crisis psychologists” feel ridiculously broad. Even worse, they undermine the film’s other attempts at emotional sincerity. It’s too bad because Mikkelsen is good as always, and the film succeeds on all the technical levels, but the tone is a problem.