‘Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.’ That proverb, rumoured to stem from Confucius (though it sounds more like Seagal), seriously underestimates the body count in this magnificently incorrigible Danish vengeance thriller. If you loved the bloody, dark-edged comedy of 2011’s Headhunters, it will be clear-the-hell-out-of-your-diary viewing.
When a train smash leaves him a widower, pissed-off army officer Markus (Mads Mikkelsen) returns home unable to process his grief, let alone help his teen daughter with hers. He’s a coiled spring and his solution to any problem is either to punch it or shoot it. So when statistician Lennart (Lars Brygmann) and two fellow geeks appear with evidence that the crash was actually part of an assassination plot by a gangster, Markus is ready to go full Death Wish.
What separates the ensuing mayhem from a thousand generic thrillers out there is an impish streak and writing that smartly juggles big ideas, mad gun battles and guilty laughs. Director Anders Thomas Jensen serves up a great running gag when Lennart’s quiet sidekick (Gustav Lindh) confidently assumes the role of Markus’s therapist to hide their real mission from his daughter. The contrasts between the cold-blooded soldier, his baffled daughter and the three boffins offers lots of oddball chemistry, too. And if the motivations of the latter feel a bit woolly, it’s hard to mind in a movie that is enjoying itself quite this much.