Anders Thomas Jensens Riders of Justice is a vengefully misguided but cathartic examination of grief.
Between the bookending of two Christmas seasons, Mads Mikkelson plays Markus — a father, widower and hardcore military vet who finds himself on a algorithmic mission to get justice for the death of his wife following a fatal subway collision.
A trio of outcast scholars also grieving over various traumas present a theoretical algorithm of events to Markus. It leads them in the direction of the infamous “motorcycle” gang, the Riders of Justice because “grieving is easier when you have someone to be mad at”, and it does feel that way, it can provide a person with some sort of explanation for the emotional experience.
So Markus and his scholars take out the responsible gang, one by one and it feels good. Lots of cool action, Mads going off, getting his weaker scholar buddies in on some of it but by the time we make it to the biggest of the bad guys, it’s crystal clear that the mission to exact revenge on this gang of scumbags was not the answer. Even if they are still doing the world a favor by taking out some bad people, their actions responsible for the death of Markus’s wife was merely an indirect casualty. Either way, they get what they deserve.
There isn’t some confirmed algorithm of events that can be predicted or traced back and there’s certainly not some formulaic cycle that defines the grieving process. It’s a complex experience unique to each and every person. The violence was misguided but the grief warranted.
The real justification is the catharsis of collectively bonding. Not during the acts of violence— mainly Markus’s— but during the time spent on Markus’s farm. While grieving can be easier when you have someone to be mad at, it can theoretically be just as easy when you have someone to share that grief with instead. It’s wonderful because before you know it, that’s exactly what the group of characters does. The scholars Otto, Lennart and Emmenthaler, Markus’s Daughter Mathilde and even a reluctant Markus collectively share their own personal trauma with one another and as a result, they all come together as this new dysfunctional but supportive family.
So it appears as though things might actually happen for a reason.