Review: ‘Riders of Justice’ deftly delivers raucous violence and healing catharsis

Nikolaj Lie Kaas, from left, Mads Mikkelsen, Nicolas Bro and Lars Brygman in the movie "Riders of Justice."
Nikolaj Lie Kaas, from left, Mads Mikkelsen, Nicolas Bro and Lars Brygman in the movie “Riders of Justice.”
(Kasper Tuxen / Magnet Releasing)

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Having previously delivered darkly satirical takes on cannibalism (2003’s “The Green Butchers”) and human genetic mutation (2016’s “Men & Chicken”) on which to hang his recurring themes of male bonding and extreme family dysfunction, Danish filmmaker Anders Thomas Jensen and his favorite leading man Mads Mikkelsen return with the deceptively generic “Riders of Justice.”

Mikkelsen, who also stars in “Another Round,” the recent Oscar winner for best international feature film, plays the stoical Markus, a recently deployed career soldier who abruptly returns home from Estonia to take down the biker gang believed to be responsible for an act of sabotage that resulted in the death of his wife.

A man with a short fuse and a distressed teenage daughter (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), Markus works through his grief with explosive outbursts and logistical assistance from a probability statistician (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), a hacker (Lars Brygmann) and a facial recognition expert (Nicolas Bro), who collectively prove to be a monumental mess of neuroses.


“Riders” might have initially looked and sounded like standard revenge thriller fodder, but the film was just teasingly marking time before going full-on Jensen, from which there is never any turning back.

The upshot, deftly blending over-the-top violence and healing crisis management sessions, ultimately ties all the laugh-out-loud audacity and tender sweetness together with a festive Christmas bow, backed by an improvised French horn rendition of “Little Drummer Boy.”

Two decades in, Jensen, Mikkelsen and their game, frequent collaborators are the defiantly irreverent gift that keeps on giving.

‘Riders of Justice’

In Danish with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Playing: Starts May 14, The Landmark, Los Angeles; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; available May 21 on VOD