MAY 8 ― With this year’s Oscar season well and truly over (and with me feeling quite happy with myself that I got all but one of my predictions right!), I’ve been on a rampage devouring all sorts of new genre movies as a sort of cinematic palate cleanser; clearing away those “important” and “serious” films that I’ve been watching the past with some cinematic comfort food and junk food.
I’ve encountered all sorts of genre fun in the past two weeks, even accidentally discovering a totally under-the-radar film that I think is already one of the year’s best and most accomplished genre movies, and a few other trashy low-budget grindhouse gold that I’m sure a lot of people will enjoy.
So please watch out for these in the next few weeks, because for this week I’d like to shine a light on two absolutely irresistible pieces of revenge films that, while definitely belonging in the same John Wick-like subgenre, are of totally different temperaments in terms of moral compass and complexity.
For anyone looking for a slightly different (but not too different) take on the by now ubiquitous and much-loved John Wick formula, Nobody initially presents us with a totally different kind of hero.
Regular joe Hutch (superbly realised by Bob Odenkirk, of Better Call Saul fame) is your normal family man, working in a factory and living the typical suburban family life with his wife Becca and two kids Blake and Abby.
Writer Derek Kolstad (who also wrote the three John Wick films) and director Ilya Naishuller (of Hardcore Henry fame) efficiently stages the mundanity of Hutch’s everyday life with an opening montage that will remind alert viewers of the opening montage in The Commuter, showing Hutch scanning the same transit card on the bus every day, missing the garbage truck every week and his journey to and from work every day.
Hutch is depicted as a meek, subservient dude working at a factory owned by his father-in-law. When a home invasion occurs at his house late one night, he does not subdue one of the intruders even when he had a chance to do so, fearing for the safety of his children and losing the respect of Blake in the process.
But when he later finds out that Abby’s bracelet is missing, something in him snaps and he goes after the intruders like a pro.
A chance encounter with some Russian mobsters on a bus afterwards finally reveals Hutch’s true colours, and this is when the film really soars when cashing in on the fact that this regular looking dad is actually one badass dude, underscored by some truly outstanding fight scenes (choreographed by the guys who did the John Wick films, of course), with director Naishuller wholly unafraid of showing some blood, gore and bones breaking.
A superbly tight piece of action cinema, this one will fly by in just a flash, that’s how effortlessly enjoyable it is.
Riders Of Justice
Once you’re done with the irresistible efficiency of Nobody, give the Danish film Riders Of Justice a chance, a film that in my opinion is just as good, maybe even better, than the Oscar nominated Another Round, which also stars Mads Mikkelsen.
Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen (who did the unforgettable Men And Chicken), Riders Of Justice is just as ambitious as his previous films in how boldly Jensen mixes tones and changes gears within one film.
Telling the story of seasoned military man Markus (played by Mikkelsen), who loses his wife Emma in a train crash that at first seems accidental, the film then delights in playing mischief when it introduces a totally rogue element in the form of a bumbling professor named Otto, who gave up his seat to Emma mere seconds before the accident occurred, leaving him as one of the survivors alongside Markus’ daughter Mathilde.
Why I said Otto is a rogue element is because he actually specialises in calculating probability and predictability, and just before he boarded the train, he had just given a disastrous presentation about an algorithm he designed that he claims can predict the future.
And right before that, Jensen mischievously opens the film with shots showing a bicycle being stolen, which turns out to be Mathilde’s bicycle, and the reason why Mathilde and Emma were on the train is of course related to that stolen bicycle.
On that same train is an important witness in the trial of a leader of a gang called Riders Of Justice, and given who Otto is and the things he saw right before the train crash, he’s convinced that the whole thing is not an accident but is in fact a carefully planned assassination plot against said witness.
And so begins a chain of events worthy of the blackest of the Coen Brothers’ many black comedies, and you will have a grand old time trying to predict what happens next as the film delights in playing games with audience expectations.
A rollicking ride from start to finish, you’ll be surprised at how good and meticulously crafted this blackly comic nugget is.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.