Anders Thomas Jensen (Denmark, 1972) directed several short films before becoming a professional screenwriter.
He scripted Soren Kragh-Jacobsen's Mifunes Sidste Sang/ Mifune's Last Song (1999) and
Lasse Spang Olsen's I Kina Spiser de Hunde/ In China They Eat Dogs (1999).
He finally directed his own film: Blinkende Lygter/ Flickering Lights (2000).
After scripting Susanne Bier's
Elsker Dig for Evigt/ Open Hearts (2002)
Jannik Johansen's Rembrandt/ Stealing Rembrandt (2003), he directed his own
De gronne Slagtere/ The Green Butchers (2003).
Then again he wrote the script for
a Susanne Bier film,
Brodre/ Brothers (2004).
He directed his own Adams Aebler/ Adam's Apples (2005) and
Bier's Haevnen/ The Revenge/ In a Better World (2010).
Maend og Hons/ Men & Chicken (2015)
Retfaerdighedens Ryttere/ Riders of Justice (2020)
is a revenge thriller with existential and even metaphysical overtones.
The one who sets the whole sequence of events in motion is a scientist who
doesn't believe in coincidences. Therefore he concocts a perfectly plausible
explanation out of coincidences. A psycho, a trio of nerds and a freed sex slave end up annihilating a gang just because of a theory that could have easily been falsified if they only believed in coincidences.
Meanwhile there's a girl who is keeping a list of all the coincidences that had to happen in order for her mother to get killed.
It is the scientist himself that lectures her on the fact that an infinite number of events lead to any single event, and so it's an impossible project, except that he himself has just done the same thing.
Then there's a psycho-killer who only needs the slightest of evidence to go on a revenge rampage. He is a cold and violent killing machine who doesn't believe in an afterlife and pretends that he accepts this cold and rational view of life, but then he has no rational explanation for his revenge project other than it helps cope with his atheism.
At the same time this tragedy is also a farce, with a trio of clownish nerds who bond together and get excited about their mission for a simple fact: they are lonely and losers.
The film mixes
Luc Besson's Leon/ The Professional,
Sam Peckinpah 's The Wild Bunch (1969)
and Chan-wook Park's Sympathy for Mr Vengeance,
and maybe also Witold Gombrowicz's novel "Kosmos" (1965).
The film opens in Estonia in a fairy-tale atmosphere with a teenage girl who would like a blue bicycle for Christmas and her uncle, an old bearded priest (a sort of Santa Claus), who admishes her that the odds of a blue bicycle becoming available before Christmas are unknown. A red one is available though.
The shopkeeper overhears the conversation and makes a phone call. That very
evening two thieves steals a blue bike at a train station in Denmark.
We are then introduced to Markus, who is serving in some special forces in Afghanistan. His wife and his daughter Mathilde are stuck because the car won't start. Markus speaks on the phone with his wife. She tells him that they have no choice but to take the train because Mathilde's bike has been stolen.
At the same time Markus tells his wife that he won't be coming home for the next three months. The news disappoints both wife and daughter.
Meanwhile two data scientists, Otto and his buddy Lennart, demonstrate their
amazing statistical algorithm to a commission. Otto claims that there are no
coincidences and, given enough data, their algorithm could predict the future.
But so far the algorithm has only discovered things that everybody already knows and the commission finds.
They are fired. Otto takes the train and is intrigued by a passenger who
throws away an expensive drink and snack. Just then Mathilde and her mom board
the same train. Otto offers his seat to Mathilde's mom. Seconds later the train explodes. Otto and Mathilde survive but her mom dies.
He sees her again while leaving the hospital.
Markus is just returning from the battlefield when his commander gives him the news.
Otto returns home and hears first
the official explanation that it was an accident in which 11 people died (the train was hit by a freight train) and then that the accident also killed the witness and the lawyer who were supposed to attend the trial of a gang leader, Kurt.
Meanwhile, Markus has flown back and demands to see his wife, even though he is warned that she is disfigured.
Meanwhile, Otto calculates the probability that such an accident would happen and concludes that it cannot be a coincidence that an important witness was killed. His main point is that nobody would throw away an expensive drink and snack like that passenger did, so he thinks that passenger caused the accident, and the purpose was to kill the witness.
The police don't believe in his calculations, so Otto asks Lennart to hack a database and find out if it was possible for the gang to know where the witness would be sitting on the train and therefore engineer the accident in such a way to get the witness killed.
Home alone with Mathilde, Markus struggles to make a connection with a daughter he barely knows because he was never home. Markus is tough and doesn't help
the girl by telling her that God doesn't exist and there is no logic in what happens in life and that her mother doesn't exist anymore.
Otto and Lennart show up at Markus' place with a lot of data that they hacked out of government servers and prove to him that its was not an accident: the
Riders of Justice motorcycle gang engineered it to eliminate a key witness.
It turns out the witness always sat in the exact same place in the train.
Markus is not convinced but what to hear more.
Meanwhile, psychologists try in vain to convince him to seek therapy for himself and his daughter. He is convinced that he doesn't need help to cope with the pain.
However, he gets anxious when Mathilde doesn't come hom in the evening and hits her boyfriend Sirius for the simple reason that Sirius asks him to be kinder to Mathilde. This creates an even bigger gulf between him and Mathilde .
Otto and Lennart visit their legendary hacker friend Emmenthaler and give him
photos of the mysterious passenger that Lennart hacked out of the security cameras. Otto is still obsessed with the fact that noone would throw away an expensive drink and snack.
Emmenthaler's software identifies an Egyptian man who lives in Egypt and with high accuracy, but Otto and Lennart insists to find someone who lives in Denmark.
By lowering the accuracy of the algorithm, Emmenthaler comes up with a more
plausible option, a man named Palle whom Otto immediately recognizes as the passenger on the train and who happens to be the brother
of the very Kurt, president of Riders of Justice, who has to stand trial.
Otto, Lennart and Emmenthaler report their finding to Markus and then all four visit this Palle. The moment they mention the train accident, Palle pulls out a gun. Markus uses his military skills to disarm him and kill him.
Markus regrets killing him but now they have to dispose of the evidence.
Lennart removes fingerprints and in the process he realizes that there is another person in the house,
a young naked man, gagged and tied.
Lennart doesn't say anything to his friends (presumably fearing that Markus would kill the boy too).
Markus returns home to find Sirius there, willing to bond with him.
Markus apologizes for hitting him. Mathilde and Sirius beg him to see a
psychologist, like Sirius' own mother, but Markus refuses again.
Later, watching television, he learns that Kurt has been
acquitted after the key witness died in the train crash.
At this point Otto's story makes even more sense: Kurt had his brother Palle
engineer the train crash so that the key witness would be killed.
Kurt is responsible for the death of Markus' wife. Markus wants revenge,
Otto and his friends want justice. Markus wants the hackers to get him
all the information on the Riders of Justice.
They decide to use Markus' barn as their base of operation.
However, Mathilde spots and recognizes Otto. She demands what is going on.
Lennart comes up with an explanation that makes her happy: that Otto and Markus
are undergoing therapy. Lennart and Emmenthaler pretend to be psychologists.
Mathilde believes them and is happy that her father finally accepted to see
a psychologist. Lennart ends up playing psychologist to Mathilde for real,
thanks to the thousands of hours of therapy that he himself has done to heal
of his own psychological problems.
Meanwhile, Kurt is torturing his brother's sex slave, who happens to be a
Ukrainian named Bodashka, to find out who killed him: Kurt is out on his own revenge.
Bodashka only remembers the name Emmenthaler.
At Markus' house Lennart continues to psychologize Mathilde, with surprising
success, while Emmenthaler sets up his computer.
Meanwhile, Mathilde keeps posting on her walls all the events that led to
her mother's death, starting with the stolen bicycle.
Markus loses his temper again when Lennart starts psychologizing him.
Markus threatens to beat him up and Lennart has a crisis in which he, lowering his pants, reenacts a sexual abuse he suffered as a child.
The gang finds out who Emmenthaler is and prepares an ambush in front of his
apartment. However, Markus is there when
Emmenthaler shows up to pick up equipment and Markus manages to kill all the
gangsters involved in the ambush.
Lennart saves Bodashka's life before Markus can kill him and Lennart explains how he found him in Palle's home.
Now they all live in Markus' house.
A grateful Bodashka offers sex to Lennart and explains that he was used as a sex slave.
Emmenthaler demands military training from Markus.
Mathilde is puzzled seeing how the "psychologists" behave around the house.
Sirius befriends Bodashka and Bodashka reveals to be a really nice man,
working as a maid in the house.
Sirius post a video of himself and Mathilde on social media which includes Otto.
Markus begins training the nerdy trio to use guns.
Emmenthaler has figured out where the gang is going to meet and Markus decides
to attack them. On the way to the restaurant, Otto objects to his plan: Markus
hits him and kicks him out of the car, leaving him on the asphalt.
Emmenthaler explains to Markus that Otto was responsible for the death of his
own daughter: Otto crash his car while driving drunk.
Lennart stays in the car while Markus and
Emmenthaler (who is the best of the nerds when it comes to guns) ambush
Markus kills all the gangsters (but Kurt is not with them) while
Emmenthaler has a hysterical fit and can't shoot anybody.
On the way back they pick up Otto who is walking in the dark with a broken nose.
Back home Mathilde guesses that Otto has been hit by Markus.
Otto sees Mathilde's wall full of notes that track down all the events leading to the death of her mother and explains to her that an infinite number of events colluded to cause that train crash.
Kurt has been doing his own research and found out that Emmenthaler's best friends are Otto and Lennart, and one day he is shown the video posted by Sirius, which shows Otto with Sirius.
Bodashka tells Lennart his story and Lennart realizes that Palle was not on the train that crashed: he was with Bodashka very far from the location of the crash.
Lennart and Otto had forced Emmenthaler to pick the second best choice in the facial recognition test, but now Lennart realizes that the first choice was the right one (the Egyptian man) and Palle was innocent.
We see the Egyptian man arriving home after his trip to Europe, handing his children some gifts and telling them that Western
drinks and food stink (that's why he threw them away on the train).
Told that he killed a lot of gangsters who had nothing to do with his wife's death, Markus has a crisis and
Markus asks "who" did it, but now it is clear that it was an accident
(he refused the priest's explanation at the funeral that it was God's decision).
Markus locks himself in the bathroom, smashes all the furniture and cries.
Otto finds him lying on the floor and hugs him.
Later Bodashka tells everybody a parable about coincidences that noone understands.
Otto tells Markus to live for Mathilde. Markus rubs it in that Otto killed his own daughter. Otto admits it and cries.
Meanwhile, Kurt and his remaining gangsters have found Sirius and torture him
to reveal where the video was made. The gangsters attack Markus' house but
Markus manages to kill several of them. However, Kurt takes Mathilde hostage.
Markus has to come out and drop the gun. Kurt and his gangsters are about to
execute Markus when suddenly the nerdy trio and the Ukrainian boy come out fully armed and exterminate the gangsters. Kurt is still alive when Markus finishes him off and only has time to ask what he has done to Markus to deserve this war, but he never gets an aswer.
Mathilde and Markus are wounded.
Finally it's Christmas. The six meet to exchange gifts.
Meanwhile, far away in Estonia a girl receives a bike as a Christmas gift from her old uncle: it's the bike that was stolen from Mathilde and caused the catastrophe.
She rides away all happy in the snow.