Having starred in Casino Royale, Doctor Strange, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the TV show Hannibal, Mads Mikkelsen is easily the most famous actor to come out of Denmark. Despite his international success, Mikkelsen never left Denmark behind as he would also star in Thomas Vinterberg’s, The Hunt and Another Round, as well as a little known film titled, Riders of Justice.
Mikkelsen plays an army veteran called Markus, who is sent home to care for his daughter, Mathilde, played by Andrea Heick Gadeberg, after her mother/his wife is killed in a freak train accident. Due to Markus’ absence and their differing grieving methods, Markus and Mathilde struggle to coexist. However, things begin to change when a survivor of the train crash named Otto, played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas, suggests to Markus that the crash may not have been an accident after all.
Riders of Justice deals with some very heavy and complex themes in a way that is painfully realistic, incredibly mature, yet surprisingly hopeful. The film beautifully explores our human need to assign blame in our pursuit of reason and understanding in something that is totally random. These themes are aided by one of the greatest twists of all time, which I won’t say more about for the sake of spoilers, and well written characters that all feel lived in. They have all experienced pain and are working through it in their own conflicting ways, but ultimately their dynamics and relationships light a glimmer of hope for them, thus sending a message of unity and moral support.
This all being said, the film is a black comedy and unfortunately, the injection of comedy into this narrative tonally imbalances the entire movie. Riders of Justice is at its most compelling when it is at its bleakest. Exploring the trauma and mental fragility of its characters, as well as, the grieving process of Markus, Mathilde and Otto, makes the film totally absorbing, however when the film tries to lighten the mood by playing Otto and his colleagues as a bunch of bumbling fools, it really takes away from the emotional weight the film had going for itself.
Overall, Riders of Justice is a deep and investing exploration of grief that is sadly undercut by a lot of misplaced comedy. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a hard pill to swallow, however it is this raw and poignant perspective that makes Riders of Justice a truly compelling watch. It doesn’t reach the highs of The Hunt or Another Round, however, despite the tonal imbalance and occasional convenient movie logic, Riders of Justice is a Danish revenge film that’s certainly worth your time.