Riders Of Justice? Foreign films! The term conjures up images of obscure, black and white movies being played on reel-to-reels in a theatre full of people smoking cigarettes and speaking French. Except they’re not speaking in the theatre, because they respect cinema!

But are they really foreign? That entirely depends on what country you reside in, I suppose. If you’re a United States citizen, technically most films are “foreign.” The majority of American-targeted, English language cinema is filmed overseas, or on the property of our landlocked neighbor, Canada.

I think what we, as Americans, generally mean and intend when we refer to “Foreign Films” is any movie that’s not in English. But even that is a fallacy in itself. But I’m not here to have a Ted Talk about the minutiae of what constitutes foreign films and their ilk.

I’m here to review a movie!

Riders of Justice is a conspicuously English name for a Danish film. And while the film also carries the Danish title Retfærdighedens Ryttere (if you know how to pronounce that, you get a cookie!) the only English that’s spoken in the film is the repeated name “Riders of Justice.”

More on that in a bit.

Yeah, So Riders Of Justice … What Is That?

Riders of Justice
Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro), Lennart (Lars Brygmann) and Markus (Mads Mikkelsen) in Riders of Justice
Photograph: Henrik Ohsten

Technically, Riders of Justice is the name of a Danish motorcycle gang (in the movie). But that’s not who the film is about.

One of our favorites, Mads Mikkelsen stars as Markus, a husband and father who has recently been deployed to Afghanistan, who is called back home to care for his daughter Mathilde (played by Andrea Heick Gadeberg) after a tragic subway crash kills his wife (and nearly kills Mathilde as well).

Statistics geek Otto (played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas), who was taking the same subway home, gave up his seat to Markus’ wife moments before the accident. Later, in the hospital, Otto witnesses the doctors telling Mathilde that her mother has died. Wracked with guilt, Otto seeks some kind of meaning or statistical definition for the subway crash. But as he peels back each mathematical layer, he seems to find more and more evidence that this may have very well been no accident.

Looping in fellow geek Lennart (Lars Brygmann) to crunch the numbers, Otto become more and more convinced that the train crash was no accident. Instead, the statistics say that it was a premeditated hit, intended to take out a defector from the Riders of Justice motorcycle gang, also a passenger on the train, who was scheduled to testify against the gang leader in court in just a few days.

Seeking justice and his own redemption, Otto seeks out Markus and Mathilde, feeling responsible for the death of their wife and mother.

When Otto and Lennart tell the internally broken yet externally stoic Markus that the statistics say his wife’s death was no mere accident, his cold and calculating military minds sets to work on a plan of revenge. Not only to take out the leader of the motorcycle gang, but to murder every single member of the Riders of Justice.

What The Hell Did I Just Watch?

Riders of Justice
Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro, left) demands that Markus (Mads Mikkelsen, right) instruct him, Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas, middle left) and Lennart (Lars Brygmann, middle right) in weapons training in Riders of Justice.
Photograph: Rolf Konow

Now, I mean that in the absolute best way. If you were to ask me “What kind of movie is Riders of Justice?” I would say “Well, it’s a revenge film… …

“But it’s also a comedy. And a tragedy. Oh, and it’s a movie about loss and the emotional and psychological trauma it causes. But it also deals with issues of sexual abuse and dealing with past trauma. And also human trafficking. And it’s a thriller, and a father/daughter drama. Also, Mads Mikkelsen is a military badass and shoots tons of people, and there’s lots of blood. But it’s also heartwarming. Did I mention it’s funny? But also heartbreaking. And it covers the concepts of chosen family and collective healing.”

So anyway, yeah, that’s the kind of movie it is.

Who Are These Guys?

Danish poster for Riders of Justice
Riders of Justice
English poster for Riders of Justice

Obviously, we all know Mads from… most things. One of, if not the most globally recognized Danish actor in the zeitgeist today. But Gadeberg, Kaas and Brygmann deliver standout performances in Riders of Justice as well. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the actor with the best name in the cast; Nicolas Bro, who steals half of his scenes as the irritable, larger-than-life computer hacker Emmenthaler.

Directed by Danish filmmaker Anders Thomas Jensen, this is his standard stable of actors, and the understanding between director and actor is evident in the delivery of what at first glance can seem like both a conventional and bizarre concept for a film.

Who Is This Movie For?

Riders of Justice
Markus (Mads Mikkelsen) and his daughter Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg) see a therapist after the death of their wife/mother.
Photograph: Rolf Konow

As is the case with most of the flicks I’ve been reviewing as of late, this film is not for kids. Bloody violence, deep psychological exploration, sexual abuse, language, math; Riders of Justice is chock-full of all the traditional things that it is advisable not to expose children to. But who the hell am I to tell you what to show your kids? Just be aware, this does not receive the Ben Kliewer stamp of approval for children. Generally, I don’t think it would hold kids’ attention anyway.

However, if you like revenge thrillers, vigilante action, and deep emotional exploration all rolled into a movie with some genuine, grounded comedy, then this is the flick for you!

What’s The Best Snack?

You mean, besides certified silver fox Mads Mikkelsen? … I guess popcorn? This isn’t really your standard “popcorn movie.” I’d say enjoy a nice dinner, light some candles and have a glass of wine while watching this film, and be ready to be taken on a journey. As I’ve said, this movie’s got it all! (Lest I make the idea of candles and wine too romantic, this movie is not a romance).

What Should I Know Going In?

The flag of Denmark! Because!

The film is entirely in Danish. Except for the name of the motorcycle gang “Riders of Justice” which they consistently say in English throughout. It’s something that always cracks me up when I hear someone speaking in a different language and then drop a perfect English phrase in the middle. It’s such a jarring thing to hear when you’ve already adjusted to just hearing the language.

I mean, they’ll be in the middle of a scene, and it’s like Danish, Danish, Danish, Riders of Justice, Danish, Danish, Danish.

But I’m a big advocate for watching good film regardless of what language it’s presented in. As Parasite director Bong Joon Ho said when he received his Golden Globe, “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

For My Money

88% on rottentomatoes.com isn’t too shabby!

Riders of Justice definitely falls under the category of amazing films with that one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles. It certainly subverted my expectations. After watching the trailer I assumed I was walking into an action/comedy/revenge thriller, but what I got was so much more! As I mentioned earlier, it took me on a journey.

Also, it’s a Christmas movie… yep.

It currently clocks at 88% Fresh on Rottentomatoes.com

Final Verdict

If you appreciate strong characters, storytelling, beautiful cinematography, wonderful direction and impactful performances, Riders of Justice is right up your alley. If you’d prefer a straight action flick with blood and boobs, this isn’t necessarily your jam. But I highly recommend Riders of Justice for any film lovers out there!

After releasing in Denmark last November, Riders of Justice has a limited US release in theaters May 14, 2021.