Dark, intermittently hilarious and downright peculiar throughout, Men and Chicken offers a mixed bag as comedy and drama are both touched upon, albeit without either approach to this farcical tale ever becoming as fully realised as you’d hope.
A hysterical and breathless opening act introduces us to a host of hare-lipped oddballs and their bizarre, backwards world, but Jensen’s own script doesn’t quite have the legs needed to take us convincingly over the finish line. The screwy moral dilemma revealed late in the day offers something a little more thematically substantial than the incest and bestiality jokes that deliver us there.
Men and Chicken‘s obvious highlight comes in the form of watching the usually straight-laced Mads Mikkelsen cut totally loose as a coarse, lunatic sex addict. By default the smartest man in this particular group (by no means a compliment), Mikkelsen’s Elias is very much of-a-kind with George Clooney’s Ulysses Everett McGill in the Coen’s O Brother (very much a compliment). Those accustomed to his restrained, strongly internalised performances in the likes of Hannibal or his other Danish-language work in A Royal Affair or The Hunt will find much joy as he explores both the light and dark sides of Elias.
As the novelty of Mikkelsen’s performance wears off, however, so too does much of the film’s humour. An early over-reliance on (admittedly very funny) slapstick means that the jokes wear thin by the film’s bizarre denouement, but a strong cast and some raucous sight gags see the film through.
Somewhat front-heavy, the twisted and demented Men and Chicken starts as a broad screwball comedy yet ends as a sobering and existential study of fraternity. It is in the transition between the two that Men and Chicken most struggles to engage, but its surprising heart gives much to enjoy.
CAST: Mads Mikkelsen, David Dencik, Søren Malling
DIRECTOR: Anders Thomas Jensen
WRITER: Anders Thomas Jensen
SYNOPSIS: Black comedy. Two outcast brothers, learning the truth of their parentage, venture to the island of Ork (population: 42) to meet their bizarre new family.