Opens Virtually & in NYC on 8/27 “If you'd won quicker, you'd suffer less.” Watching her son, thirty-something professional tennis player Thomas Edison (Alex Lutz) apply an ice pack to his knee during dinner, Judith (Kristin Scott Thomas) can't help ...
‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 

Click here to read this mailing online.

Your email updates, powered by FeedBlitz

 
Here is a sample subscription for you. Click here to start your FREE subscription


  1. Film Movement Movie Review: Final Set (2021)
  2. Movie Review: Raging Fire (2021)
  3. Blu-ray Review: Last Train From Gun Hill (1959)
  4. Movie Review: The Dry (2020)
  5. Movie Review: Riders of Justice (2020)
  6. More Recent Articles

Film Movement Movie Review: Final Set (2021)


Opens Virtually & in NYC on 8/27


“If you'd won quicker, you'd suffer less.”
 
Watching her son, thirty-something professional tennis player Thomas Edison (Alex Lutz) apply an ice pack to his knee during dinner, Judith (Kristin Scott Thomas) can't help but ask, “why lose the first set?”
 
Having helped propel Thomas to early greatness as a young prodigy, Judith struggles to remove her coaching hat to support her son the way that a typical mother would. Coming from a place of not only criticism but also love – because to care for Thomas and the knee he'd had operated on multiple times in the past is to question why he still feels the need to try to compete against the top players of the world at his age – to say that their relationship is complicated would be an understatement. But understating it is precisely what makes their dynamic and everything else in French writer-director Quentin Reynaud's “Final Set” so real and compelling.
 
Minimal and precise, the dialogue between not only Thomas and Judith but also Thomas and his loving, supportive, but equally conflicted wife Eve (Ana Girardot) is spare throughout the work which boasts a quasi-documentary feel. Yet, delivered by this exceptional group of actors who can say so much with a look or tone, we feel the weight of one’s meaning even though the English subtitled lines are spoken in French. In fact, generating a great deal of conflict and depth from these micro-moments, it's a film where those inquisitive looks over dinner or cautious actions – even the way one character packs or carries a tennis bag – speak louder than words.


From the Australian Open in January to the ATP finals for the highest-ranked male players in November, tennis, more than most sports, is essentially played for eleven months out of the year. Unfortunately, with a ranking of 245, which is a far cry from the great hope he was supposed to be twenty years earlier when he choked during a grand slam, Thomas' respectable but still low stats keep him out of most major tournaments, which cater only to the top players in the sport. 

And while he would prefer to enter every competition he can, his wife – a former player herself who now handles the behind-the-scenes business decisions – has to gently remind her husband that when you subtract the travel, food, and lodging costs, far too often, the actual winnings from some of these events don't justify the expense. Supplementing the income he barely receives from matches he's allowed to enter by working as a children's coach at his mother's tennis club, while everyone around him is waiting for him to hang up his racket or join the over thirty-five tour, Thomas decides to make one last stand at Roland Garros.
 
Otherwise known as the French Open, at Roland Garros, tennis is played on courts of famous red clay where the surface of the terrain not only sticks to a player's shoes, socks, legs, clothes, and arms if they take a nasty fall, but as legends like Andre Agassi and Roger Federer are first to admit, it's also sheer hell on the knees. And if it's hard on those joints at any age, you know it's destined to be agony for Thomas whose prominent knee surgery scars, arthritis, ligament lesions, and osteoarthritis are shown and discussed within the first five minutes of Reynaud's movie.


Nonetheless, knowing he doesn't have a lot of time left but not quite ready to follow in his wife's footsteps and train for another career because – despite being a husband and father – a life outside of tennis isn't something he's ever considered, Thomas decides to make a run at the Open by playing several brutal rounds as a qualifier. Facing other players not lucky enough to get in via wild card or ranked highly enough, even though his wife Eve tells him to “have fun” before he leaves for a match, we know that for the serious Thomas, fun doesn't really enter the equation. No, in this quixotic, underdog run, it's just about determination, desperation, and the work.

Drawing a parallel throughout to a cocky, young, but exceptionally gifted seventeen-year-old phenom on the rise (played by real pro player Jürgen Briand), who even Eve admits reminds her of her husband, obviously, you know that eventually, the two men will have to square off at some point to achieve the dramatic potential of Thomas “playing himself” in “Final Set.” Still, it's in the authenticity of the film's battle to that battle – and particularly the amount of regret, guilt, excitement, frustration, and pain of both the past and present that flood our main ensemble from start to finish – that makes this film feel like something beyond just your typical inspirational sports drama.
 
Furthermore, the time that Reynaud takes off the court and how much trust he puts into this excellent trio of actors (with once again, Scott Thomas doing some of her best work both later in life and in French) makes his bold decision to spend the film's final twenty-five minutes on the court so incredibly effective. Set during a showdown between the two pros at different points in their life, Reynaud goes right for the greatest hits of dramatic tennis. 


Zeroing in on a five-set grand slam match between a David and a Goliath, which features a never-ending deuce, racket smashes, cramps, long rallies, and more, the film achieves something so thrillingly intense that for a long time, I actually forgot for a while that I was watching a movie instead of championship play. More than that, as someone whose TV is often left on The Tennis Channel, it was only after the movie ended when I was reading the film's production notes that I realized that the final match went on for nearly the length of a traditional “act” of a Syd Field screenplay.
 
Yet, similar to the way that I love a good football movie even if it isn't a sport I actually watch, this isn't to say that one needs to be an avid tennis fan or even know much about the sport to enjoy “Final Set.” Filmed at Roland Garros and using that tried and true blueprint of “Rocky,” which similarly spends a good chunk of the film's last half right in that boxing ring as we watch events unfold in what I'd call “hyper-real time,” Reynaud's film is wildly ambitious in its scope. Refreshingly, though, it's as invested in the human story as it is in its tennis, which comes through in the film's fully earned last shot. A superbly executed ensemble effort that plays out against a backdrop that's the stuff of modern myth-making, as we watch Alex Lutz's Thomas fight against time and his own body's wear-and-tear, we're right there with him, eager to battle it out to the very end.


Text ©2021, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.
 
   

Movie Review: Raging Fire (2021)


Now Available


One of my all-time favorite movie reactions is from Denzel Washington who was interviewed on a red carpet after he saw Brian De Palma's “Mission Impossible” in 1996. Recounting the film's many cloak-and-dagger reveals where people switch sides often while in pursuit of the all-important NOC List, Washington leveled with the reporter, joking, “I said to my wife, 'am I stupid or was that hard to understand?'” 

I bring this up because just this week, I had a similar reaction to "Raging Fire," the final film of the late great director Benny Chan. After it began, for at least a good twenty minutes, I was in a constant state of confusion. It's not a great feeling. Nobody wants to admit that they have no idea if they're watching a flashback, a jump forward, or if a character who seems like a villain actually is, and in this case, I think my uncertainty was exacerbated by the fact that at least in the screener of the film I was playing, the subtitles were far too small and flew by at the speed of a John Woo bullet ballet. Unsure if this reaction was my issue alone, before I could even pause "Fire" to ask an avid foreign film buff I was watching with if they understood what was going on, they turned to me and said they were finding it almost impossible to keep up.

Until it eventually all came together in a long-overdue burst of exposition, I simply fell back on my love of Hong Kong action movies, which frequently revolve around the duality of a cop and a robber, and how the two characters really are two sides of the exact same coin, “Infernal Affairs,” “City on Fire,” or “Hard Boiled” style. And luckily, that really helped me out in "Raging Fire," which star Donnie Yen readily admits does go right for that old beloved trope of cops and robbers that film fans have cherished since the days of the western in the west and/or samurai tales in the east. 


In Chan's movie, Yen stars as an obsessive, dedicated police officer who finds himself pursuing his one-time protege on the force, now turned villain played by Nicholas Tse. Feeling like he was hung out to dry just for - in his eyes - following orders, after spending time in prison, Tse reemerges hell-bent on revenge. I'm giving you the succinct version of the set-up here because, as merely a fan of all involved, I went in completely blind and had trouble sorting it out. 

Yet while the film's first act is missing a much-needed sense of flow, which is a recurring problem in Hong Kong movies that often begin with a concept, which only gradually evolves into a script involving these favorite character archetypes, thankfully Benny Chan knows how to direct action. And with his final work, “Raging Fire,” he is there to distract us from the small subtitles and confounding goings-on. 

Only in a Chan film will you have the determined officer played by Donnie Yen tell his squad to go home after a twenty-hour workday and after they leave, he decides to go to an inner-city lair where he fights roughly twenty-five guys at once. It's an insanely wise decision for "Fire," because, I mean, Yen is “Ip Man” after all! Ultra stylish in that glossy Hong Kong way where even the ultraviolence is beautiful, in “Raging Fire,” our two incredibly photogenic leads duke it out in the rain (among other places) and Edmond Fung's cinematography is so vivid and urgent, you can't help but want to reach your hand out to see if you can feel a raindrop hit your skin as well.
 
Drawn to the movie because, as Tse said, he knew it would be a rare chance to do real old-school, contemporary Hong Kong action that nobody seems to be making anymore due to the danger and expense, “Fire” is filled with rapid shoot-outs, explosions galore, and hand-to-hand combat, including a final fight sequence so intricate that it took nearly two weeks to film. Featuring incredible wirework and death-defying stunts that glide by like Gene Kelly tap-dancing in an MGM musical, in one of the film's most memorable moments, we see a motorcycle vs. car duel play out in traffic with blows landed and thrown through an open window and sunroof that must be seen to be believed.


Proof that sometimes plot (or coherence) is overrated, although, even when you figure it all out, the film's storyline is forgettably threadbare, for action lovers, “Raging Fire,” is a full “turn your brain off and just enjoy the ride” throwback to the glory days of Hong Kong cinema in the late '80s and '90s when films like Benny Chan's “A Moment of Romance” reigned supreme. 

While not as masterful as the Hong Kong classic "Romance," it's still a spectacle of human achievement executed by a film crew who will literally risk being executed to dazzle you. Made with true affection by Yen, Tse, and company for the late director they loved so much, even if the first half-hour of rapid-fire subtitles and scene jumps in “Raging Fire” made me feel – in Washington's words – “stupid,” the entertainment value of Chan's film isn't hard to understand.


Text ©2021, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.
 
   

Blu-ray Review: Last Train From Gun Hill (1959)


Now Available
 
 (Affiliate Link)


Originally purchased in 1954 by producer Hal Wallis as a potential western vehicle for either Burt Lancaster or Charlton Heston, although those efforts stalled, five years later, Wallis was able to see his dream of a big-screen adaptation of TV writer Les Crutchfield's thrilling story "Showdown" come true.

Sharing production duties with star Kirk Douglas's own company Bryna Productions, Hal Wallis reunited with the cast and crew of his 1957 Paramount hit "Gunfight at the OK Corral" two years later for the briskly paced, startlingly gritty, taut, high profile VistaVision release "Last Train From Gun Hill."

Directed by John Sturges and shot by gifted versatile cinematographer Charles Lang the exact same year he lensed "Some Like It Hot," he fills "Gun Hill" with a mixture of dark noir shadows and an at times luridly bright, flammable color scheme of reds, oranges, and yellows to almost expressionistic effect. This visual motif serves as an ingeniously bold yet still subtle depiction of the fiery aggression of its core cast of characters and helps the emotional core of the film remain ever-present from start to finish.



After U.S. Marshall Matt Morgan's Native American wife is raped and murdered by two young sadistic cowboys in front of their young son, the lawman (played by Kirk Douglas) vows to do whatever it takes to bring the killers to justice. Discovering their connection to his old friend Craig Belden (Anthony Quinn), thanks to a distinctive saddle on one's horse that his son was able to use to escape the villains, Matt journeys to Craig's Gun Hill with his gun and badge, even though he's advised that those things won't be welcome there.

"You work for Craig Belden?" Matt asks when he gets off the train, before, in a half of a line that fans of 1993's "Tombstone" know very well, he lowers the boom. "You tell him I'm coming."

However, it seems that Quinn's Craig Belden is in for a rude wake-up call as well. Having been told by his son Rick (Earl Holliman) that his horse and saddle had been stolen by thieves and that the garish scratch Rick's suddenly sporting on his face came from a lusty encounter, once Matt arrives and asks his old friend for help, Craig realizes that his son and friend are the ones responsible for the heinous crime.

And when Matt comes to the same conclusion as Craig, the shocked but proud man implores Matt not to arrest Rick, warning him that he not only runs the entire town but also the police. Informing Craig that he aims to bring Rick and Lee back to face charges on that night's last train leaving from Gun Hill, Matt embarks upon a lonely search throughout the corrupt town to track them down. And soon enough, he deduces that the only thing the people of  Gun Hill value less than the life of a Native American is that of a Native American woman.


Although it's reminiscent of "High Noon" in Matt's one against the world quest, which, like "High Noon" manages to work in a female ally as well in the form of Carolyn James, the tale that "Last Train From Gun Hill" seems to have the most in common with is ultimately "3:10 to Yuma," based on the 1953 Elmore Leonard story.

Made into a film at Columbia Pictures in 1957 from director Delmer Daves (after which it was remade by James Mangold in 2007), fans of "Yuma" will see a lot of similarities between the plight of Matt and Van Heflin's in "Yuma" as well. And this is especially evident when a fair amount of action in "Hill" plays out at a hotel after Matt manages to capture and subdue Rick, despite knowing he's surrounded by gunmen ready to free Craig's son (which we saw in "Yuma" with Heflin and Glenn Ford) before they can board that train.

While "Gun Hill" admittedly places a good deal of its emphasis on action whereas "Yuma" involves far more scenes of mental chess played between the two men, "Hill" is still a psychologically thrilling work as it presents Matt and Craig as two flip-sides of the same coin who've grown further and further apart in their attitudes of right and wrong over the years.


Using the same type of approach he used to balance the moral, internal struggle of his characters with terse, tense, temper driven bursts of prideful masculine violence that he employed so perfectly in 1955's masterful "Bad Day at Black Rock," Sturges, along with his crew, lends a real sense of artistry to the film. Elevating it above its otherwise predictable "B" revenge western feel, the 94-minute movie not only flies right by but also helps foreshadow the career that the director would have in the early '60s, helming "The Magnificent Seven" (with some of this film's collaborators) and “The Great Escape” as well.

Given an impressively vibrant 6K transfer to Blu-ray (plus an HD digital copy) as part of the Paramount Presents series of titles, "Last Train From Gun Hill" might feel like something of a forgotten western from the era. But like Matt stalking through the alternating reds, oranges, yellows, and dark shadows in order to get his men before things ignite, this is one film that's well worth tracking down.


Text ©2020, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.
 
   

Movie Review: The Dry (2020)

Now Available


From the desolate, sun-drenched terrain of beige, brown, and yellow as far as the eye can see to the constant threat of bushfire thanks to the dryness of the environment and its unforgiving temperatures, the moody mythos of rural Australia is perfectly suited to western noir storytelling.

Not quite John Ford and not quite John Dahl – to audiences in the American southwest watching director Robert Connolly's new adaptation of Jane Harper's award-winning first novel “The Dry,” the film's overwhelmingly massive landscape seems equal parts foreign and familiar as it spools out before us onscreen.

Easily the most important character in this slow-burn thriller, in the hands of Connolly, his co-scripters Harry Cripps and Samantha Strauss, and his gifted lead actor Eric Bana (who also produced), the setting serves as a terrific allegory for the internal battle playing out in the mind of our main character as well.

As Australian federal police officer Aaron Falk, Bana's conflicted protagonist leaves his residence in Melbourne to return to his rural hometown of Kiewarra for the first time in over twenty years in order to bury his best high school friend Luke (Martin Dingle Wall) who killed his wife and young son in an alleged murder-suicide. Unwilling to believe that their son could do such a thing, after visiting with Luke's parents, Aaron promises them that he'll look into his family's deaths, even though he has no jurisdiction or any real link to the man his former friend had become after all this time.

An intelligent, evocative look at the way that the past and the present can coexist simultaneously, as Aaron investigates the present-day crime alongside a young sergeant (played by Keir O'Donnell), the film reveals more about his complicated history with Luke, including the suspicious death of a beautiful young woman they knew in high school that still haunts Aaron to this day. Feeling like the two cases are inextricably linked (or perhaps just needing them to be in order to find closure), just like the dry tinder of the ground beneath his feet that could catch fire at any moment, Aaron must figure out what is and what is not in his power to control.

A methodical actor who's at his best when playing contemplative characters who keep their cards close to their chest while embarking on external missions that wind up having to do more with what's going on internally than anything else, “The Dry” boasts one of Bana's strongest and most introspective turns in years.


Shot four-and-a-half hours outside of Melbourne in the flat, dry landscape of the Wimmera region of Victoria with its wide-open spaces that convey both mystery and danger and the secrets of a small, deceptively close-knit community beginning to come undone, “The Dry” feels like a western neo-noir descendant of “One False Move” and “Flesh and Bone.” But like an existential mystery made by a post-“Paris, Texas” era Wim Wenders, “The Dry” is much more intrigued by the psychology of its people rather than the traditionally plot-heavy machinations of a '90s thriller. Richly atmospheric and decidedly deliberate, it's the best Australian film of this type since director Ivan Sen released the brilliant sequel to his breakout hit “Mystery Road” in 2016 with “Goldstone.”

Taking time to develop, as we meet the people of Kiewarra, we aren't quite sure who and how many of these citizens and threads might prove to be connected in nefarious ways. One of those films where you find yourself following Bana into a small-town bar, look around and instantly know that every single person onscreen has an unpredictable story to tell, while a few of its supporting characters – including Aaron and Luke's old friend Gretchen (well played by Genevieve O'Reilly) – are a bit shortchanged by the narrative as a whole, it's a truly effective sleeper overall. Preferring to take the long way around in such a way that the film's first hour requires the patience of a prestige TV mystery series, once “The Dry” finds its footing, everything clicks into place.

Building up energy as it continues like a cyclone whipping around dust in the Victorian flatlands, as Aaron works to solve both cases using his heart as well as his head, the film reaches a conclusion as shocking as it is true. Surprisingly stellar in its deployment of red herrings and misdirection, in offering viewers a brainy, unexpected respite from mindless studio ventures, “The Dry” strikes a match against celluloid and brings the heat of summer movie season directly to the screen.


Text ©2021, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.
   

Movie Review: Riders of Justice (2020)


Now Available


After making a striking first impression in his earliest screen role in Nicolas Winding Refn's gritty and groundbreaking feature filmmaking debut "Pusher" in 1996, actor Mads Mikkelsen became a sensation in his native Denmark. And although Refn's film had more in common with say, Martin Scorsese's "Mean Streets" than it did with the newly launched naturalism based Dogme '95 film movement from directors Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, Mikkelsen evolved into one of the most internationally recognizable stars from this school of filmmaking, thanks to a vital, early collaboration with writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen.

Following Jensen's 1998 Oscar for Best Short Film, fresh off the heels of having been nominated in the same category the two years prior as well, Mikkelsen's alliance with the filmmaker began with Jensen's feature directorial debut "Flickering Lights" in 2000. But their partnership really reached the height of its power in the films "Open Hearts" and "After the Wedding," which Jensen co-wrote with their director Susanne Bier (and the latter of which garnered Bier her first of two Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film). The global success of those films, along with some which made Mikkelsen the muse of other Dogme vets led directly to his Hollywood crossover and subsequent popularity as a franchise favorite with turns in new Marvel, James Bond, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Indiana Jones properties.

Unwilling to leave his friends, language, and country behind, the loyal chameleon regularly alternates between huge studio tentpoles and the latest films from those he first found success alongside decades earlier. And this is not only true of Vinterberg, for whom he just starred in the Oscar-winning "Another Round," but especially Jensen, who has written and/or directed Mikkelsen in some of his most surprising fare over the years, from the morality tale "Adam's Apples" to the western "The Salvation" (for director Kristian Levring) to the new unorthodox holiday revenge dramedy "Riders of Justice."


Playing a recently deployed soldier who's sent home to care for his teenage daughter after she survives the train explosion that claimed the life of his wife, Mikkelsen's Markus is given an unexpected outlet for his rage when he's visited by two statisticians, including a survivor played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas, who was the last person besides his daughter to see his wife alive. Presenting Markus with evidence indicating that her death might have been part of a coordinated attack to prevent a man from testifying against the head of a notorious street gang, after a colleague in facial recognition manages to narrow down a suspect, these three odd wise men join forces with their new soldier friend.

Having neglected to figure out precisely what they should do once they confront the man, when their first interaction impulsively escalates into murder, the motley crew decides they're not done just yet and soon find themselves in the midst of a war with one of Denmark's deadliest crime syndicates.

But rather than give in to the basest instincts of the revenge genre and turn the film into something resembling "Death Wish," by setting the film around the Christmas holiday and populating it with social misfits just out of step with society, Jensen takes the opportunity to explore the questions of faith, chance, fate, and human connection that have fascinated him throughout his entire career.


While not entirely successful, most likely owing to differences in culture and translation, Jensen's tendency to weave startling bits of humor into the plotline, ranging from a recurring focus on weight regarding the teenage daughter of Markus or the blunt handling of a Ukrainian male sex slave they liberate makes the film hit a few discordant notes here and there. Still, with this talented cast, including men like Mikkelsen and Kaas – who've worked together for decades – once again able to add new layers to these at times tonally uneven yet undeniably complex characters, it works much better than you fear it will early on.

Culminating in a thrillingly photographed violent western-style showdown in the snow where the wounded and outnumbered men must figure out how to get out of this situation alive, Jensen punctuates his final act with a few true surprises as his characters struggle to figure things out amid the chaos.

Though unable to authentically balance its swings from sardonic to brutal to funny to sad without the film feeling the least bit artificial, Mikkelsen and company ensure that although – like their characters – they always remain ready to battle, the real thing that sets "Riders" apart is in the ensemble's journey towards one another and away from revenge. Of course, having proven it again and again over the years, it seems as though that kind of loyalty is more than just a plot point, in the end, it's the Mikkelsen way.


Text ©2021, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.
   

More Recent Articles


You Might Like