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Movie Review: 'Riders of Justice' Delivers Action, Jokes & Philosophical Conundrums

© Kasper Tuxen. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
A scene from RIDERS OF JUSTICE, a Magnet release.

How’s this for a pitch—three guys sort of like the conspiracy-minded, tech-savvy trio from The X-Files known as the “Lone Gunmen” team up with a guy sort of like Liam Neeson in the Taken franchise, and they all set out to take revenge on a biker gang they hold responsible for the death of the wife of the Neeson-type character. Can’t miss, right?

Right! But for more reasons than just that delicious setup. Riders of Justice stars everyone’s favorite Danish actor-- and maybe the most interesting face in movies today—Mads Mikkelsen, as a highly skilled soldier who returns home following his wife’s death in what authorities deem an unfortunate train accident. But one of the survivors on the train is a data analyst whose mind sees patterns everywhere, and who noticed some things that lead him to conclude this was very much not an accident. He enlists the skills of his brilliant, but socially inept friends, and they approach Mikkelsen to convince him this was nefarious work, and Mikkelsen decides someone needs to pay.

But what follows isn’t just a revenge thriller, although it is that. And it’s not just a black comedy, although it is that, too. While both of those things are going on, the movie also explores some deeply serious issues and questions about life—some of the characters have experienced extreme trauma in their pasts, and this presents itself in sometimes shocking ways. But Mikkelsen is also struggling to maintain a relationship with his daughter, who sees him as a bit psychopathic, and it’s clear he must come to terms with his grief at some point, despite his best abilities to compartmentalize death that he’s learned in the military. Throw on top of all of that major cosmic questions about whether or not there’s any meaning or order to the universe at all, and you get a tone that whipsaws drastically, but that also hits my sweet spot: Come for the action and jokes, stay for the philosophical conundrums. And Mads Mikkelsen, of course.


Follow Fletcher Powell @fletcher_powell

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.