Riders of Justice and Pig movie review: rethinking the revenge movie
I a m ended with films about men driven to revenge by the death of the women they love. It’s such an overused cliché, and so damaging to the humanity of half the human race onscreen, that it has become one of the criteria by which a movie could be sounded for its portrayal of women in it. my Where are the women? project.
Worse yet, in the six and a half years since I developed the WATW test, this trope is now, if not something, even more prevalent. It has become the cheapest and easiest type of storytelling shortcut for lazy, unimaginative filmmakers. Hardly a week goes by that I haven’t been courted by advertisers to cover an action thriller or sentimental drama in which the male protagonist is subjected to All The Feels because a woman he loves has been brought to him. taken away by her death. In an entertainment industry crowded with movies, where it’s sometimes hard to decide which ones to criticize, this garbage makes an easy no.
This is mainly why I pushed away the Danish action drama Riders of Justice for so long. Because despite the draw of the never-not-great Mads Mikkelsen, this is yet another film about a man driven to violent revenge by the untimely and tragic death of a woman. But Mikkelsen’s attraction is strong… and – wonder of wonders! – I did not regret having given in. Because it is a film which knows what he does with the dead woman motivates the man to avenge his nonsense. This knows that’s nonsense, and he’ll do whatever he can to show you – slyly, patiently, with a lot of grim humor along the way – precisely How? ‘Or’ What and Why this is nonsense, and why we should reject it. Why should we reject revenge in all its forms.
Mikkelsen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Doctor Strange) is Markus, a career soldier called back to Denmark from Afghanistan to care for his teenage daughter, Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), when his wife and mother, Emma (Anne Birgitte Lind), are killed in an accident train in which Mathilde was also injured. Or was it an accident? The moment Markus finds out that Mathilde hates him for being so absent, with their relationship rekindled at the start of the most difficult, he is offered a distraction in the form of Otto (the ever-so-awesome Nikolaj Lie Kaas: Department Q: A Conspiracy of Faith, Child 44), a statistician who used math and science to prove that the crash was in fact the murder of another train passenger who was about to testify in the high-profile trial of a dangerous member of gang. Moreover, Otto knows who is responsible …
You better know the least Riders of Justice as possible before entering – do not look at the trailers; they’re giving away too much – but it’s no spoiler for me to say that Otto was also a passenger on this same train. (We see this at the start of the movie.) In fact, he gave Emma her seat out of politeness, only for Emma to be killed in that seat while Mathilde and Otto, who were standing, survived. So Otto feels guilty, and also wishes he could blame anyone, anyone, for what everyone looks like, including the authorities, like an unfortunate accident.
Writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen has crafted a slyly brilliant deconstruction of how we deal – or not – with grief, what causes us to move remorse and shame, and why it can all lead to terrible things. , especially as depicted in, well, less conscious films than this one. In a way I’ve never seen before, Jensen aligns the actions and motivations of Markus all-in-one, fists first with the supposedly cooler and more intellectual motivations of Otto and his people. Nerdy Buddies: They’re like modern Sherlock Holmes, seeing hidden models that reveal secret truths, but are they so different from Markus in that it forces them to do what they do? No they are not.
There is so much going on in Riders of Justice – this is one of those movies that I think I can write a book about, it’s so rich and dense with layers, meaning and complexity that I barely scratched the surface here. But it’s the reversal of the male revenge trope that feels so vital and necessary to me right now. I’d love to think what Jensen actually means we closed the door for him… but I only have to look at my inbox to see that, unfortunately, we haven’t.
a particular set of skills (cooking) …
Nicolas Cage in Pig also lost a female he loves… but she is not dead. She was kidnapped – a familiar variation of that appalling cliché – snatched from him in an act of violence both physical, from his perspective, and psychological, from his, for she is his only friend and now she is gone. Oh, and also he’s a pig. A pig who hunts truffles, she is therefore incredibly precious and necessary for his survival: he earns his living by selling precious truffle mushrooms. But he adores her for reasons far beyond that.
(The silence of the lambs? That pig’s cry as you pick her up is horrible. Sounds so human. So… terrified. She will haunt your nightmares.)
None of this, on its own, would be enough to absolve Pig for its deployment of this dilapidated cliché … except that Pig Also uses it as a jumping off point to smack the notions of revenge that movies have piled on us for far too long.
For Pig is – and I mean this in the best, most complimentary, the most amazed manner – John wick meets First cow. It’s the anti-capitalist rage and anti-toxic-masculinity sweetness that crash into the revenge thriller and find a new paradigm for punishing those who have harmed a man. I’m not sure I felt that kind of captivating pity, and later a gratifying bittersweet triumph, towards a character from Cage – the actor has had an unattractive career over the past few decades indulging in tropes of toxic masculinity – since he told Kathleen Turner in 1986 Peggy Sue got married, “I’ll prove to you that I love you!” I’ll be like Fabian.
Cage (Color Out of Space, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) Rob lives in a dilapidated cabin in the woods of the Pacific Northwest that, from the information we glean at the start of the movie, could easily exist in the world of 200 years ago, his life is so simple, so rough. But then a modern sports car in sunshine yellow zooms in, carrying Amir (Alex Wolff: Jumanji: the next level, hereditary), Rob’s proud asshole connection with the modern world: Rob sells his truffles to Amir. And after the pig is kidnapped, Rob reluctantly enlists Amir – who is also reluctant, to say the least – to hunt down her captors and get her back.
Surprisingly, Pig is the first feature film from director Michael Sarnoski. (He wrote the screenplay with Vanessa Block.) It’s an incredibly accomplished film that surprises at every turn. It’s an anti-revenge movie that plays out action movie shots with deliberate precision, often with black and funny results, but it’s by no means an action movie per se. It’s a film about the civilizational catastrophes that no one sees coming and the personal dreams that are thrown away: these are tragedies that Rob, subtly profound, speaks about in a way that gives them equal weight, and rightly so. It’s a movie about revenge as a dish best prepared by a chef, serving food so good it makes you cry. It’s a movie that desperately demands an accompanying cookbook. (Rustic mushroom pie? I’m going to need the recipe for that.)
It’s a silent little film about pain so great it can barely be contained. For the men in the movies, that pain too often turns into violence. In Pig, loneliness, grief, and regret are seen as feelings worth sitting down, exploring, and learning about, rather than denying and rejecting them. It shouldn’t be such a drastic lesson in emotional maturity.