Riders of Justice Review: Grief Through Laughter

Riders of Justice

Anders Thomas Jensen’s latest film, Riders of Justice, is a chaotic experience that’s surprisingly hilarious. Yet, the film also isn’t afraid of being emotionally devastating when it needs to be. The film follows Markus (Mads Mikkelsen), a soldier who goes home after his wife dies in a tragic train accident. It seems like an accident until Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), a mathematics geek and fellow passenger on the train, and his two colleagues show up to tell Markus that the train accident wasn’t what it seems.

As you watch the film, you begin to recognize that Riders has a lot more to offer its complex puzzle of differing tones. Through this story of grief, Anders also injects the differences between the laws of correlation and causality. It’s a weird concept, but it works in the grand scheme of things. Because while causation and correlation can co-exist, science says that correlation does not mean causation. Causation explicitly applies to situations where one action leads to another. On the other hand, correlation is simply a relationship. In other words, let’s say one event relates to another. That one event doesn’t necessarily cause the other event to happen. 

“I sometimes think people with problems band together”

Because through this poignant story, Jensen takes a series of unexplainable events to show that although you think one incident is related, it’s not quite the cause of it. Every life event is a product of the infinite amount of events that preceded it—combining in ways we can’t even comprehend to trace. Jensen uses the law of causality to explore the complexity of the grief cycle—from our crippling feelings of guilt to the stuff we tell ourselves to make sense of the tragedy. The shock, the shield we put up to hide the pain, and the depression abyss—the film accurately portrays everything onscreen. It’s quite a miracle to see how beautifully structured Riders is as it puts all of these dynamic pieces together.

However, the only issue is that the film doesn’t spend more time sharing the past of Markus’ nerdy allies. Every single one of them has something from their past that they are unable to let go of. It’s especially true with Lennart (Lars Brygmann) and Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro), whose backstories are teased but never explored. Because through his search for answers, Markus inadvertently finds an extended family through these loveable nerds. In fact, they become an extended family full of broken people who are simply trying to piece their lives together. 

Overall, Riders of Justice is a film that deals with grief and how certain events can lead to some unexpected outcomes. It revels in the chaotic tonal swings but never shies away from the emotional aspects of the story. This unique story would have been an utter mess, and occasionally it flirts with it. Yet Riders is profoundly entertaining and poignant. This film shouldn’t work, but thankfully it does.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

Riders of Justice is out in Los Angeles and New York theaters on May 14th, 2021, and in theaters everywhere and On Demand on May 21st, 2021.

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