Riders of Justice – Review

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Reflecting on the title and premise, Riders of Justice looks like another revenge movie with a member/ex-military/secret agent character, who hunts down a criminal organization, to avenge the death of his family members. But in the hands of Anders Thomas Jensen as the director and scriptwriter, apart from appearing fresh through dark humor, the film also handles the theme of “facing grief” more meaningfully than the majority of titles with a similar concept.

This grief is experienced by Markus (Mads Mikkelsen), a soldier serving in Afghanistan, when he hears the news that his wife, Emma (Anne Birgitte Lind), has died in a train accident. His daughter, Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), survived, but was devastated, so she tried to find the reason and meaning behind the disaster. Because he rarely comes home, Markus has difficulty dealing with Mathilde’s grief, when he himself doesn’t know how to heal his grief. Best Movie

Until Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), an expert in algorithms, arrives, who is also a victim of a train accident. Through his calculations, Otto was sure that the incident was not an accident as the police believed, but the work of the Riders of Justice gang who intended to kill their opponent. Together with his two friends, Lennart (Lars Brygmann) and Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro), Otto helps Markus investigate the mastermind behind his wife’s death.

It’s true that there is revenge here, but Riders of Justice is closer to the realm of black comedy than action (there are only two action scenes in total). More reminiscent of Coen Brothers work than Liam Neeson’s starring titles. Bringing a tough soldier who never smiles, to work with three socially awkward nerds, of course often creates interesting situations.

Through his dark humor, which is funny thanks to the often unpredictable timings plus the perfect delivery of the actors, Jensen brings Riders of Justice several times almost over the line, when making things like harassment to disability as material. But it never felt offensive, because Jensen wasn’t making fun of it, but bitterly laughing at the trauma, while adding sympathy which resulted in a warm conclusion about the “beautiful togetherness” after the exclamation of the gunfight in the climax. Top Movie Site

When Markus sees revenge as a “rope” that keeps him alive, as a rail that gives him direction to keep going, Mathilde tries to make sense of his loss. He traced all the events that occurred before the accident, looking for cause-and-effect relationships in each case, hoping to find deeper reasons for his mother’s death.

However, even though there are times when things like crime can be patterned, then traced using statistical data as Otto did, life is still not an exact science that can be calculated. Answering the mysteries of life is different from answering exam questions that require a reason.

Riders of Justice is opened by a boy’s request to buy a blue bicycle. This simple incident created a domino effect that led to Emma’s death. Was the boy’s request a cause? Or does it need to be traced back, to the beginning of Mark and Emma’s relationship, when they decided to have children? Because if you refer to the science of causation, doesn’t it mean that if Mathilde hadn’t been born, the accident wouldn’t have happened either?

According to Riders of Justice, the questions above are not important. We don’t need to assume, “if only things were different”. We don’t need to (always) seek deeper meaning for events that are too painful to accept. We just have to learn to make peace, then accept it.

As usual, Mads Mikkelsen can be relied on in playing a character with a chaotic mental condition, which is controlled by anger, sadness, so that he tends to be destructive, including himself. Markus is a formidable warrior, but what this film emphasizes is not how great the hero is to dare to defy death for revenge, but how the machismo collapses, overcome by the fragility of grief. Movie Review

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