Review: Riders of Justice

STUDIO: Magnolia | DIRECTOR: Anders Thomas Jensen | CAST: Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Lars Brygmann, Nicolas Bro
SPECS: NR | 114 min. | Foreign language action comedy thriller

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 

With Riders of Justice, writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen and actor Mads Mikkelsen (Valhalla Rising) prove there’s more to thrillers these days than a revenge-seeking Liam Neeson (the Taken franchise) wreaking havoc or costumed superheroes of one universe or another battling it out with the help of extravagant CGI special effects, heavy paychecks in tow.

Mads Mikkelsen in Riders of Justice

Stylish, intense and off-handedly funny, this Danish production makes it worthwhile to pay attention to details. The surprise-filled storyline is best left unreported, but we’ll spring a little bit of it with prudence: The plot involves a tragic explosion on a train, a teenage girl (Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Held for Ransom) and her father (Mikkelsen) and an unusual group of people tied in some way to the explosion.

The movie drifts in out of genres. One minute it’s an intense suspense yarn, but the tension is broken up with off-beat humor. Then there are scenes of bone-crackling violence, well-staged action sequences and even portions of tears-inducing drama. Some may see problems with the inconsistent tone of Riders of Justice, but it’s also what keeps audiences on their feet and is part of the film’s uniqueness.

Filmmaker Jensen, best known for his acclaimed script for After the Wedding, impresses throughout, mastering the unpredictable tides of his script with this a cinematic high wire act. Others must have been impressed with his effort here, too: He’s now developing a crime thriller with Mission: Impossible writer/producer Christopher McQuarrie for George Clooney.

Mikkelsen, who has worked with Jensen on a few projects before, turns in another top-notch performance as a bearish soldier, recently in Afghanistan, who carries a mix of PTSD and explosive anger around with him. He’s always on the edge, threatening to  detonate at any time, but he’s often surrounded by a quirky group of characters led by an eccentric statistician (Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Collision) who add lighter moments to the film, countering his threatening demeanor.

In terms of steely cloak-and-dagger intrigue and unanticipated absurdity, Riders of Justice is a blast.

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.