We take at this absurdist offering from director Anders Thomas Jensen…
Elias (Mads Mikkelsen) is a failure when it comes to women, as well a serial masturbator and, well – how to put it nicely? – a moron. His brother Gabriel (David Dencik) is a scientist and, while not exactly an aspirational figure, is doing much better in terms of: intelligence; charm (insofar as you might be able to stand being around him); morality; plus, he’s actually had a girlfriend before. So you can understand him being convinced that Elias isn’t really his brother, and when their father passes away, leaving a video informing them they were actually adopted, it looks as if Gabriel was actually right; as it turns out, they were half-brothers, sharing a biological father. Gabriel, determined to discover where he comes from, sets out to find the father, who lives on a tiny island with a population of 40, and Elias comes with him essentially for lack of anything better to do. On arriving, the half-brothers find that they’re not as warmly welcomed as they were expecting. Their father is terribly ill, unable to leave his bed, and the three sons who live with him want nothing to do with Gabriel and Elias, getting rid of them by bashing their heads in with stuffed animals, which we will find out is something of a trademark for the Three Stooges-style brothers. But in the end, Gabriel and Elias are accepted into the house, as long as they’re willing to play by the somewhat demented rules enforced by the oldest brother. As Elias takes to the strange, civilisation-free style of life, Gabriel becomes increasingly horrified by the setting and, at the same time, increasingly determined to discover what dark secret the three brothers are hiding.
Men & Chicken is such a peculiar picture that I’m still not entirely sure whether I liked it. Mads Mikkelsen, whom we’re used to seeing as charming-but-ruthless figures, such as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale or Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal, brilliantly manages his transformation into a vulgar idiot. He’s unrecognisable even physically, having managed to transform himself from tall, slim, and terribly handsome – if a little severe – into a bloated, red-faced, sweaty creep, and his performance is equally convincing. The first half or so of the film definitely works, with gross-out and slapstick humour that’s actually funny and well-executed. But it’s not a comedy, per se – if it is, it’s a very dark one – and the second half brings in horror elements, finally ending up as some sort of hybrid between The Wicker Man, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Bride of Frankenstein. The picture is so perfectly perverse that, during this second half, it isn’t always entirely clear what’s being driven at. It’s possible to see it as a straight, if unusual, horror picture; but then, it’s also possible to see the second half as simply a darker continuation of the comedy of the first half. One might also be tempted to discover some kind of social allegory, but the final moments of the film are so wilfully amoral that they’re almost entirely resistant to deeper analysis. Finally, the picture is nothing more or less than a piece of absurdism.
Men & Chicken is released in cinemas today (15th), will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!