Men and Chicken Review
To many of us Mads Mikkelsen is an actor synonymous extreme sophistication. From Le Chiffre in the 2006 Casino Royale to his excellent television work Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Hanniba, we know him in sharp suits, expertly put together with an edge of the dangerous underneath. I can imagine that for some it will be difficult to reconcile that image with his latest film Men and Chicken, in which he plays a curly-haired, pornstache-adorned creep with a chronic masturbation habit.
Gabriel (David Dencik) and Elias (Mads Mikkelsen) are brothers who learn upon the death of their father that they were actually adopted half brothers. Both men are considered odd - Elias more so than Gabriel - and decide to track down their mutual birth father to gain a better sense of themselves. When they reach the remote island where their father supposedly resides, they instead find three more brothers; Gregor, Franz, and Josef, who are even stranger in their sanatorium home filled with various animals. As the brothers get to know each other it becomes apparent that there are strange secrets in this family which might be found, very appropriately, in the locked basement.
The best word I can use to describe this film is weird. It is that and occasionally uncomfortable (the brothers have very certain uses for a lot of the animals roaming their home), and reaches an absurdist place that might leave you reeling. However, I will also say that by the time the film reaches its conclusion, a lot of the weirdness makes a strange kind of perfect sense. Little moments and behaviours in scenes between the characters that seem disjointed at first take on a whole different scope by the end, and yes that does include the masturbation. It makes for a quite clever and playful result, despite the comedy being very much of the black variety. The performances all back this up and are well done, effectively playing in a place between quirky and almost sinister.
The film is also quite pleasantly surprising, in the sense that I wasn’t expecting where it would end up. What I thought was an odd family-based comedy gains genre elements, that whilst unexpected, do work quite well. I will of course spoil nothing, but in this story of family secrets I will simply say that an animal may be ferocious and cunning enough, but it takes a real man to tell a lie.