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Review: Riders of Justice – “Original, engaging and genuinely entertaining”

Riders Of Justice opens with a series of seemingly unconnected events: a bike is stolen, a mother and daughter have to take a train and a recently sacked data analyst on that train gives up his seat for the mother. She and many others are then killed in a horrific accident on that train. Her daughter, Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg) and the data analyst Otto (The Killing’s Nikolaj Lie Kaas) who gave up his seat, both survive. With time on his hands and looking for the reason behind the tragedy, Otto begins to look into why the train crashed, not believing the official accidental verdict. He uncovers what he believes to be the real reason for the ‘accident’, the assassination of a white supremacist who was about to give evidence against his own gang, The Riders OF Justice. Otto takes this information to Mathilde’s father Markus (Mads Mikkelsen, currently in everything), who is a soldier recently returned from Afghanistan. He then embarks on a mission of revenge, aided by Otto and his two tech-savvy friends, Lennart (Lars Brigmann, Dicte: Crime Reporter) and Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro, The Killing).

Working from Markus’s very large and impressive barn, the four men track down the gang in order to seek retribution. What sounds like and is indeed a dark tale of violence and revenge also doubles as a very black comedy about grief, healing and the need to come to terms with one’s own feelings and actions.

Mikkelsen’s stock continues to rise on both sides of the Atlantic as he ‘out Neesons’ Liam Neeson in his many revenge thrillers as a grieving father who puts his military background and training to deadly use in exacting revenge for his family. The face hardly flickers as he surgically double-taps his way through gang members in breath-taking set pieces.

Comic relief is found in Otto and his two friends, who in more clumsy hands would only serve to be comic relief, derailing the drama and tension within the film. But they have their own stories, arcs and past tragedies informing their actions and bringing this dysfunctional family unit closer together.

Even Markus’s daughter, Mathilde is not just there to be scared and rescued. She drives the story with her own actions and interactions within the group, bringing a focus point and anchor for what would otherwise tip over into a film full of men laughing, shouting and shooting at other men.

Director and writer, Anders Thomas Jensen gets the balance of drama, action and comedy just right. Using laughter to draw us in and care about the characters, enough drama to ensure the film doesn’t lampoon the situation and arresting violent sequences that gives the audience real jeopardy.

There are a plethora of revenge thrillers out there to watch, but if you wish to watch something original, engaging and genuinely entertaining place the Liam Neeson, Jason Statham and Mel Gibson films to the back of the queue and watch Riders Of Justice.

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