Men & Chicken is one of the more alternative comedies out there, from Oscar-winning writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen (In A Better World, The Salvation), this presents a welcomed temporary change in direction. Fully embracing what appears to be the complete polar opposite of his previous work, labelling it as “bizarre” or “absurd” barely begins to do this any justice.
Centred on two brothers, Gabriel (David Dencik) and Elias (Mads Mikkelsen), following on from the immediately tragic and somehow still made humourous loss of their father, not only are they told they are adopted half-brothers, but that their father isn’t who they think it is/was. Their real dad lives on an island with a miniscule population, their mothers both died during childbirth, and unfortunately their video message ran out after those important titbits.
Mads Mikkelsen’s character is perhaps the weirdest; filled with a freakish amount of testosterone, constantly needing to masturbate, dopey and unsubtle, he seems oblivious to the details they just learned. Dencik’s character on the other hand, seems more rational; noticing that really the only thing linking him to Elias is the harelip they both have, he becomes intent on getting answers to his origin.
The scene is set within these first acts, and from here on out it gets progressively peculiar – nothing can quite prepare you for what you are about to see. The appearance of more half-brothers, the endless beatings with stuffed animals, the strange dialogue and unpredictable family occurrences that lead this story down a dark path of absolute nonsense. It’s not ‘random’ for the sake of it; part of the appeal is Gabriel’s visual deterioration as an unrecognisable Mads Mikkelsen playing Elias assimilates himself with the drivel taking place around him.
Aesthetically, it maintains the polished finish you expect from a film by Jensen, which only makes this unconventional comedy fall even further from initial expectation. For all its off-kilter actions and an ending that requires you to continue to extend your imagination beyond the realm of plausibility, it does the unthinkable by still addressing to some degree, themes of God, brotherhood and family.
It may not be for everyone, despite its ridiculous sense of humour running throughout it suffers from inconsistent pacing and mismatched moods that leave you not knowing quite what on earth you’re watching. That being said, when the jokes land, they land well. Slapstick combined with sharp witty dialogue; the physical and spoken comedy is on point. It’s an experience, and oddly enough it’s quite a draining one owed largely to just how intense the entire movie is.
World cinema is full of little gems of insanity, and Men & Chicken belongs right alongside them.