The Danes, famous for bacon, Hans Christian Andersen, Lars Ulrich, Lars von Trier and Mads Mikkelsen. It’s the latter who we’re interested in for Men & Chicken, a film from the rather bizarre brain of writer and director Anders Thomas Jensen (The Green Butchers, In A Better World).
Gabriel, played by David Dencik (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Elias, played by Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, The Salvation), are brothers, of sorts, they couldn’t be more different if they tried. Gabriel is a downtrodden university professor whilst his brother Elias just masturbates and challenges everything Gabriel believes in.
When their father dies in hospital the brothers find a videotape the old man has left them informing them he wasn’t their biological father and the mother they thought was their mother, wasn’t. Before the tape abruptly ends they are informed their real father lives on the island of Ork, population 42.
The two set out on a journey together where they meet three more brothers they never knew they had. Each one different from the other and all as mad as a box of frogs. There’s Gregor, played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Angels & Demons, Child 44) perhaps the sanest of the new three brothers but obsessed with meeting girls. Josef, played by Nicolas Bro (War Horse, The Bridge) who is a fount of knowledge on everything and reads the bedtime stories. Then there’s Franz, played by Soren Malling (A Royal Affair, A Hijacking) who takes the older brother/father role of the three.
They all live in an isolated, dilapidated former sanatorium where they have created their own rules and ways of living that aren’t how ‘normal’ people would live. Surrounded by farm animals and one massive bull who has sired 43,000 females, it’s fair to say they have more issues then Dencik and Mikkelsen, which is going some. All brothers have a hair lip and aren’t blessed in the looks department.
All the brothers, with the exception of Gabriel, sort out their problems by hitting each other repeatedly with large, heavy objects. Franz’s favourite being a large chicken-type ornament, Josef preferring large planks of wood, the rest generally whatever they have to hand. All these scenes, of which there are a few, are done with the blackest of humour and usually play out in the background of some conversation happening in the foreground. It’s very funny…and painful looking.
The film is about as mad as the title but in the best possible way. It reminds me of the quirkiest of films you’ll find, such as the recent The Lobster with Colin Farrell, only it’s much, much funnier and much blacker in its humour.
Each character that arrives is as bonkers as the next for their own reasons. Dencik and Mikkelsen are brilliant as the quirky brothers. Mikkelsen almost unrecognisable and certainly a million miles away from his role in Casino Royale. Kaas, Bro and Malling are also excellent as the other brothers, you sense each had a blast playing these quirky characters.
Writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen does a fantastic job. There are lots of little touches that add so much to the movie. The scene involving the fathers tape from the grave, something you’d expect to be touching, is done with fun and laughter. Gabriel introduces the bible to the group only for Josef to read it and then recite it to the rest of the brothers, in what has to be described as a very factual, blunt interpretation.
If you like your movies quirky and black humour, as I do, you will love Men & Chicken.