Riders of Justice sees Markus (Mads Mikkelsen) return home to his teenage daughter, Mathilde, when his wife dies in a tragic train accident. It seems like an accident until a statistical analyst (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) who was also a fellow passenger on the train, and his two colleagues show up and present the idea that it may not have been an accident after all.
Written by Jack Ransom
Going into this fairly blind, outside of the basic premise and the various promotional posters, largely expecting the film to be another John Wick & Taken style thriller with a layer of black comedy on top. Whilst Riders of Justice delivers the satisfying revenge brutality as expected, it also brings so much more to the table. Layered, engaging and unique characters, a simultaneously quirky and disturbing premise, as well as lashings of sarcasm and sharp comedic beats.
The themes of trauma and loss hang heavy over the narrative. Every character who finds themselves caught up in Markus’ quest for revenge is suffering and coping with their past. This makes for a surprisingly emotionally investing core to the film. The constant tug of war between Markus and Mathilde is at the heart of this. She desperately wishes her father would seek out grief counselling or at least talk about the tragedy that has struck them, but he remains cold and shuts out any attempt to open up.
Tonally, the film is very much akin to something like In Bruges. There is some very heavy subject matter and imagery on display, but this is counteracted by the humour. Foul mouthed sarcasm and biting bluntness are at the forefront. The three tech-whizzes constant bickering, outbursts and how out of depth they really are in this mash up of murder, misdemeanour and morbid thoughts, adds a sense of macabre levity to the proceedings, but never takes away from any of the drama.
The bursts of action are brutal, scrappy and swift. There is no heavily stylised bloodshed here. Just visceral head shots and punch ups, with glints of grindhouse glee to the finale section. From a technical perspective the film is also strong. The frequent brooding shadows and saturated yet still prominent gritty colour palette works perfectly, and the lighting helps craft frequently standout shots. The score/soundtrack has a variety of memorable moments. From melancholy, grandiose orchestral to hard-edged hip-hop and rock choices.
Mads Mikkelsen once again delivers a truly forceful performance. This is quite possibly the most distant, enraged and cold he has been. Truly capturing someone so embittered by loss and anger, who is trying desperately to hold it all in. Nikolaj Lae Kaas, Lars Brygmann & Nicholas Bro all bring memorable performances and personalities to Markus’ team and the various supporting cast also excel in their roles.
Riders of Justice is a unique, brutal, surprisingly emotionally engaging, bitingly funny and striking revenge tale that certainly won’t be what you are expecting. Led by a brooding and imposing Mikkelsen performance, backed up by varied and standout supporting cast. Highly recommended.