James Cole Clay // Film Critic
The foils of foreign cinema can pay off greatly. The tones are usually askew from what he are used to in America, and the actors have a little more freedom to try things we normally wouldn’t see from their Western counterparts.
European films are sophisticated and macabre sometimes to a fault, and that’s the case with the Danish film MEN & CHICKEN.
The Danes have produced left-of-center filmmakers such as Lars Von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg and the director of this film, Anders Thomas Jensen. He’s certainly isn’t a novice filmmaker, but his work is news to me and I truly worry for what goes on inside his head.
MEN & CHICKEN tells the story of two outcast brothers Gabriel (David Dencik) and Elias (Mads Mikkelsen) who discover a family secret that may allow them to get in touch with their unknown family. And there may be a few self-discoveries and life lessons along the way… There’s definitely a chicken with hooves and other oddities mucking about this intensely strange film.
American audiences will recognize Mikkelsen from his work on TV’s HANNIBAL, and he brings the same level of creepy physicality, but it’s channelled into a nebbish man who feels entitled to most things, but yet doesn’t deserve the life rewards for which he is asking. The beta brother Gabriel is on the eternal quest for truth after the duo find their long lost brothers who have been genetically mutated from animals. Mikkelsen and Denick find an odd comedic groove that’s something like a twisted version of Laurel & Hardy with a little family drama that finds its way into the narrative.
Anders made a film that’s perplexing as it is transfixing. There’s truly nothing like it in theaters stateside. And for the film’s sake of ability to resonate, it’s a successful experiment in many aspects.
It’s home country of Denmark were confident enough in the film to submit it for the 2016 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language film. Although it didn’t receive the nomination, there’s something to be said for that vote of confidence and it’s off the cuff brand of familial tension.
MEN & CHICKEN is currently playing at Alamo Drafthouse and is available On-Demand.