Mads Mikkelsen truly is Denmark’s greatest international export since Lego. He never fails to bring his all to every single role he portrays and is more often than not the highlight of anything he’s in. However, Hollywood doesn’t treat him as well as they should. Whenever you see him in a film produced by an American studio, he’ll probably be playing a sinister villain. After all, he was introduced to mainstream audiences in his outstanding performance as the menacing Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. Granted, he was a kindly father figure as Galen Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but he was barely in that. Soon we will also be seeing him as a villain not only as Johnny Depp’s replacement for Grindelwald in the Wizarding World but also as a Nazi scientist in Indiana Jones 5.
It’s no wonder then that Mikkelsen takes every opportunity he can to return to his homeland where he can play much more complex and/or morally grey characters. Riders Of Justice‘s lead protagonist, Markus, is as complex and interesting as characters get. Markus is sent home from a tour with the Army because his wife has been killed in a tragic train accident and the story mostly follows how he comes to terms with that. His violent nature that he’s learnt to control in the armed forces comes seeping out as he struggles with grief.
Riders Of Justice is at its heart a film about mental health and grief. Every one of the main characters has gone through a tragedy or loss in their lives that they’ve had to accept. But while that is the central theme, the plot itself is driven by revenge and anger. Anger, sadness and joy are all emotions that the characters go through and they are all feelings that are perfectly projected on to the audience. As you watch, you will go through the exact same highs and lows as all of the crew that’s built over the course of the film.
The writing and directing of Riders Of Justice is simply exceptional. Anders Thomas Jensen manages to pull off something that’s quite rare in media. The characters all feel real and you completely believe them all as a group that would get along in the way these characters do. They feel like a family by the end and you will end up caring for every single one of them. Jensen’s skills are especially demonstrated in one particular scene where Markus (Mikkelsen) confronts the man he believes to be responsible for the train crash. Everything in that moment is beyond perfect.
As a result of all of the above reasons, Riders Of Justice is most definitely Denmark’s answer to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It has a similar story and covers very similar themes, but still manages to completely set itself apart from that film and be something truly brilliant and refreshing. If you’re a fan of Martin McDonagh’s awards darling, then you may end up liking this even more.
Riders Of Justice will release in cinemas July 23rd.