Men & Chicken, the very odd black comedy from Danish director Anders Thomas Jensen, contains great performances and is a treat to look at but its Three Stooges-esque comedy and predictable plot make the second half drag.
The film stars Mads Mikkelsen and David Dencik as brothers who, on their father’s deathbed, discover that they are in fact adopted. The brothers go to an island to find their biological father and meet there three other brothers. While trying to fit into this particularly dysfunctional family they also attempt to find out more about their father and why all the brothers’ different mothers died during childbirth. This certainly doesn’t sound like a comedy but every character is a grotesque, and the film is full of shocking comedic moments.
Both Mikkelsen and Dencik are brilliant here; Dencik playing the closest thing this film has to a straight man is very likeable and Mikkelsen as his sex obsessed idiotic brother is hilarious, further showing how transformative he can be. The supporting cast is funny but because there really isn’t a normal person in the entire picture it makes the five brothers seem as if they fit quite well into this world rather than standing out as the outcasts they are set up to be.
The three brothers they discover have a violent slapstick relationship similar to the Three Stooges or indeed Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson‘s in the show Bottom. This is at first very funny but after an hour becomes a little trying.
The first half is shocking and different helped by the strong performances of the two leads and its striking visuals – the location filming is absolutely stunning. However after an hour the film has few tricks up its sleeve and repetitive comedy and an obvious twist don’t help.
My main problem with the film is the use of harelips as a means to show that the brothers are indeed all related and that they are strange and “different”. Having all five brothers be mentally simple and social outcasts and link that to harelips seems totally unnecessary and a little offensive but maybe that was the intention. Jensen has gone on record to say that the film tries to honour that people are different from each other, that’s fine but to have every character with a harelip be deranged surely can’t help.
Men & Chicken does have enough big laughs to warrant a watch and the great performances and cinematography help make this very odd film watchable. It’s by no means perfect but fans of dark gross out comedy will find plenty to enjoy here.
Comedy, World Cinema, Drama | Denmark, 2015 | 15 | Arrow Films | 15th July 2016 (UK) |Dir.Anders Thomas Jensen | David Dencik, Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Søren Malling, Nicolas Bro