The Danish film Riders of Justice qualifies as a bona fide curiosity, a film in which shocking violence plays against a comic backdrop in which an unlikely alliance tries to deliver its own brand of justice. The alliance consists of a seasoned warrior (Mads Mikkelsen) and three nerdy companions (Nikolaj Lie Kass, Nicolas Bro, and Lars Brygmann). A soldier suffering from PTSD, Mikkelsen's Markus returns from the front when his wife (Anne Birgitte Lind) dies in a vividly presented train crash. Markus's teenaged daughter (Andrea Heick Gadeberg) survives and the two are left to cope (or not) with grief. Enter a statistician (Nikolaj Lie Kass) who was on the demolished train and who claims that it's statistically impossible for the crash to have been an accident. Lie Kass's Otto enlists Markus in a revenge plot that also draws in a computer expert (Bro) and an all-around geek (Brygman). The movie can't always balance seriousness and humor, but director Anders Thomas Jensen goes heavy on themes: from child sexual abuse to the over-reliance on science to the fraught relationship between Markus and Mathilde's preternaturally accommodating boyfriend (Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt). As suspects in the train crash, The Riders of Justice gang becomes the focal point of an investigatory/revenge plot. To appreciate Riders of Justice, imagine a revenge movie in which the characters all have backstories that ultimately are revealed in serious conversations. These moments can be touching and Jensen never forgets that a terrible sense of loss underlies the entire enterprise. I can't say that Riders of Justice totally succeeds in seamlessly blending its many ingredients, but Mikkelsen's tough performance and the rest of the cast keep the movie from jumping its tracks -- or at least jumping them in weirdly provocative ways.
A minimalist slice of contemporary horror, The Djinn offers an efficient blending of sound, image, and jolts. A slender story revolves around a boy (Ezra Dewey) whose DJ father (Rob Brownstein) has left him alone for the night. Dewey's Dylan can hear but he can't speak. While rummaging through a closet, as kids are wont to do, Dewey finds a thick, obviously strange book that tells him he'll be granted one wish, assuming that he survives a night with The Djinn. The movie's monstrous demon appears in different forms and does its best to make Dylan's survival as difficult as possible. Routine horror ploys proliferate: A TV that shows nothing but static and a boombox that turns itself on and off. The boy also sees images of his mother (Tevy Poe), a woman who left Dewey and his dad before the movie begins. On screen by himself for most of the movie, Dewey delivers a convincing performance but directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell may be trapped by their movie’s minimalism. Sometimes, minimalism produces only minimal impact.