Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: Deployed military man Markus has to go home to his teenage daughter, Mathilde, when his wife dies in a tragic train accident. It seems like an accident until a mathematics geek, who was also a fellow passenger on the train, and his two colleagues show up.
Review: Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Hannibal TV series) most recently starred in a Danish film called Another Round, a comedy-drama about four teachers conducting a binge-drinking “experiment”. I absolutely loved it and it was my favourite film of 2020. And I wasn’t the only one as Hollywood (which awarded it the best International Feature Film Oscar) has already caught remake fever and plan on doing it all over again for Western audiences. Putting that potential mess aside for now Riders of Justice, like Another Round, is a film from Denmark that once again shows if you’re only watching American cinema you’re missing out on some truly superb storytelling.
If you’ve ever watched other Dutch or Swedish films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you’ll know they don’t just do surface-level action movies. There’s always depth to the characters, the story and the motives of everyone involved, and that’s what you get from Riders of Justice. Now if you go into this expecting wall-to-wall gunfights and beat ’em-up times, you’ll be sorely disappointed. I blame the trailer, which makes this look like your average American action movie when it’s so much more.
Mads plays a soldier named Markus returning home only to find his wife has died in a train bombing. He’s a man who has spent so long suppressing his emotions he has no idea how to deal with his daughter’s grief or even his own. So when a couple of conspiracy theorists show up, one of whom was a passenger on said train when the events took place, it’s easiest for him to pick up a rifle and go after the alleged killers rather than deal with his pain and his family.
I honestly don’t think there’s a role on this planet Mads Mikkelsen can’t play, but he’s not the only one delivering gold here. Dutch A-lister Nikolaj Lie Kaas as Otto (if you watch a lot of Netflix’s foreign language movies I’m sure you’ll find the face familiar) is magnificent as the man who starts Markus and his friends down this road of vengeance. His scenes with Mads are some of the best in the film, with one in particular that made me reach for the tissues. Actress Andrea Heick Gadeberg gives a well-rounded and heartfelt performance as Markus’ daughter Mathilde, and Lars Brygmann is hilarious as the well-meaning but very annoying Lennart. Honestly, the entire ensemble cast brings their A-game here (with the exception of the villains, who sadly are regulated to cliched bad guy territory) and everyone involved will have you so invested in them you can’t help but feel genuine fear for their lives as the story unfolds.
As I mentioned before, this isn’t just an action movie. It’s more like a drama with action beats to it. The violence is hard-hitting and visceral yet there’s a sense of shame that the director adds to these events, almost like he wants us to stop and think about what’s happening here and not just desensitize ourselves (like we usually do when it comes to action cinema) to the violence that’s happening. The best scene I can use as an example of this doesn’t even have any gunplay in it *SMALL SPOILER AHEAD*.
There’s this movement where Emma’s boyfriend brings her home a bit late. Markus overreacts and slaps the boy. Hard. You can tell he instantly regrets his actions and the boy gets up and rides away. Now if this was an American movie, the kid would probably yell and scream about how Markus is a madman who needs to be locked up, but later on they (Markus and the boyfriend) actually sit and discuss what happened and why. This may be jarring for Western audiences who might even see it as improbable, but if you’ve watched your share of Danish cinema you’ll know this is the kind of depth they tend to deliver. You see? Style and substance is possible!
The film may not be for everyone, but if you like your action with a big dash of heart, a touch of humour and a big dollop of intelligence and drama, you should definitely hop on board and take a ride with these Riders of Justice.
Sommer’s Score 7.5 out of 10
So are you a fan of Mads Mikkelsen? What’s your favourite role from him? You can check out more action-packed reviews below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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