Riders of Justice out for revenge

B Crime Thriller
Written by Anders Thomas Jensen from an idea by Nikolaj Arcel and Anders Thomas Jensen
Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen

You know those “dad thrillers” that usually star Liam Neeson? Well, here’s the Danish version, and silly as it is, it’s fun – if you can stand the violence.

A passenger train explosion kills a lot of people, including the mother of a teenage girl who luckily survived the blast. The father, a military man trained in all sorts of bloodshed, wasn’t there, but he returns home to take care of his daughter. The army has taught him a lot of skills, but parenting isn’t one of them.

Mads Mikkelsen stars as that hapless father, Markus. When he meets his daughter’s boyfriend, he gives the kid a black eye. (If you’re not familiar with Mikkelsen’s name, he’s been in Casino Royale, Doctor Strange, Hannibal, and the Oscar-winning Another Round.)

The plot really starts when a brilliant data specialist, also a survivor of the explosion, figures out that the blast was not an accident, but the work of an evil and violent crime gang. With another computer nerd helping him, they go to the authorities to prove what actually happened. And, of course, the authorities don’t believe any of this.

But when they bring their evidence to Markus, he’s ready to rain down deadly justice on the killers. This is a man boiling with anger and violence. In one scene, a bad guy puts a gun to the unarmed widower’s forehead; within a minute, the bad guy is dead.

Before long, Markus has a crew of other men ready to help him bring down the evil gang (apparently women aren’t into violent revenge). He trains his cohorts on the use of some very powerful guns.

With all these men learning how to use powerful guns, you’d expect some sort of macho fun and games, but there’s only a little of this. Instead, the men cook, clean, and talk about their emotions. One is extremely overweight. Another is young, thin, gay, and, it turns out, has been a sex slave. And, of course, there’s the teenage daughter and her boyfriend.

And yet, Markus leads in the slaughtering of a group of men that our heroes believe deserve it. And while all this going on, he’s learning how to be a father.

I think writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen wanted to make some sort of Christian theme – which seems strange for a revenge flick. It starts, and ends, at Christmas time. Music throughout the film often sounds like it’s coming out of a church. Such things are in Jensen’s history. In 2005, he made a wonderful comedy, Adam’s Apples, which was set mostly in a church and is filled with comical miracles.

Of course, the film climaxes with a big battle between the good guys and the bad guys (who we really never get to know). It’s suspenseful, but not particularly original. But it works.

Riders of Justice opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center and the Shattuck.