Markus (Mads Mikkelsen), who has to go home to his teenage daughter, Mathilde (Andrea Gadeberg), when his wife dies in a tragic train accident. It seems like an accident until a mathematics geek, who was also a fellow passenger on the train, and his two colleagues show up.
A film that constantly keeps you guessing, Anders Thomas Jensen’s Riders of Justice is a deft balancing act that manages to effectively juggle seemingly conflicting tones to create a truly unique entry in the revenge genre.
Then again, it’s not simply a Death Wish knock-off, as it contains moments of genuine humor while posing thorny moral questions regarding the use of violence in the pursuit of the greater good. Markus (Mikkelsen) is a man with a violent past. A soldier by trade, he is determined to hunt down the men who killed his wife and traumatized his daughter by staging a purposeful collision involving two commuter trains. While the authorities regard the incident as nothing but a tragic accident, Otto (Nikolaj Lie Cass), who was also a passenger on the train, convinces Markus that this was in fact an assassination attempt set up by the gang “Riders of Justice” in order to kill a former member who was going to inform on them. Though his evidence is circumstantial, it is compelling…or is it a simple excuse for Markus to go on the rampage, solving problems in the only way he knows how?
In addition to Otto, two friends of his – Lennart (Lars Brygmann) and Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro) – who also both happen to be troubled geniuses -tag along to offer up their special brand of help in the manhunt Markus undertakes. Their quirks, while played for laughs at times, also prove to be quite poignant, each of them suffering from incidents of abuse from their past that have left them irreparably damaged. They have this in common with Markus, who refuses to accept the fact that his penchant for violence is a flaw in his character.
The interactions between these four is engaging throughout, while the story presents a third act twist that forces you to reevaluate all that’s come before, casting the characters and all they’ve done, in a distinctly different light. Engaging as well as thought-provoking, Riders is a unique entry well-worth searching for.
3 1/2 Stars