MEN & CHICKEN (Denmark | Germany/15A/104mins)
Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen. Starring David Dencik, Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Søren Malling, Nicolas Bro.
THE PLOT: When their father dies, Elias (Mads Mikkelsen) and Gabriel (David Dencik) discover that their father was not their biological father, and they had different mothers. Armed with this knowledge, the two seek out their biological father on the small island of Ork – population 42 – and find a host of other brothers and a lot of secrets.
THE VERDICT: Men and Chicken is an odd film; starting off with a slapstick, Three Stooges feel, there are plenty of laughs to be had. However, as the film goes on, it takes a turn for he even more absurd and wraps itself up in a way that is not entirely satisfying.
Mads Mikkelsen is on wonderful form here, playing against type and obviously relishing the opportunity. Mikkelsen obviously found a way to relate to his self involved, compulsive masturbating character, and while the audience may not always understand him, Mikkelsen does, and this brings the character to life. David Dencik plays the more sober, thoughtful of all the brothers, trying to control the madcap, violent and impatient way in which they all live their lives, and it is through Dencik as Gabriel that we see much of the film. The rest of the brothers are played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Søren Malling and Nicolas Bro, and it is obvious that there was a lot of character work done for the film, since each of them feels rounded and real, although completely alien and outside of the audience’s experience.
‘Men and Chicken’ is the fourth film written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen, and reunites Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Ole Thestrup, who have appeared in all four. The story of the film is wonderful and weird, and makes great use of the space where the film was shot. The former sanatorium which, trivia time, was once where Hitler was treated, is beautifully cinematic, and this crumbling building is more than enough of a metaphor for the crumbling family that lives within its walls. Anders Thomas Jensen makes sure that a feeling of unsettled weirdness permeates the film, from Elias’ compulsion to masturbate to Gabriel’s compulsion to dry retch every few minutes, there is a lot more going on here than adult children trying to find their father. The film meanders through the revelations at times, and the pacing feels slow and almost sluggish, but the final act of the film changes everything, as secrets are revealed and the tone of the film shifts from comedy to horror.
In all, ‘Men and Chicken’ is an odd, odd, odd film about finding the place where you belong. Mikkelsen has rarely been better, and the entire cast obviously relished the chance to throw themselves into this odd and unsettling film. The problems arise with the pacing and story of the film, which often feel unsatisfactory and unfinished.
RATING: 2.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Men & Chicken… and possibly owls, dogs and bulls too. Oddball Danish comedy Men & Chicken is a fowl tale of some dodgy family relationships shot through with a slapstick sense of humour.

    Elias (Mads Mikkelsen) and his brother Gabriel (David Dencik) are outcasts who have never tried to fit in. Short-tempered Elias hasn’t much luck with women, criticising his latest date, a psychotherapist, for interrupting his rants. Quieter, more thoughtful Gabriel finds a videotape that their late father left them. Their father reveals that he’s not their biological father, but they are half-brothers through another man. They set out to discover the true nature of their parentage. Upon arrival at the dilapidated family mansion where their real father resides, they are greeted with hostility by the three other men who live there: Gregor (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), Franz (Soren Malling) and Josef (Nicolas Bro). However, after some cooling off, Elias and Gabriel are welcomed into the mansion, which is over-run with chickens and other animals. Gregor, Franz and Josef are a strange bunch. They want to stroke chickens as a way of preparing themselves for dates with girls and like bedtime stories. They are like children who never grew up, but Gabriel wants to get at the heart of the family matter, though it may be too much to contemplate…

    How to describe this film… Writer/Director Anders Thomas Jensen’s film has been described as The Three Stooges meets Franz Kafka. That’s a basic summation, as there’s a lot more to it than that. Men & Chicken also mixes in elements of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original of course) and Frankenstein. For this is a comedy that is definitely a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. It’s oddball, but in a goofy and amiable way. The tone is set early on when Gabriel and Elias arrive at the mansion and are beaten with planks, huge pots and a stuffed bird. That’s pure Three Stooges slapstick and is laugh-out-loud funny. But there are more thoughtful, philosophical discussions posing as bedtime stories which give the film that extra edge. It’s like a dark, cautionary fairytale which takes some very twisted turns. Family skeletons pop out of closets and the horrible truth about their parentage comes to light. It’s a heady mix, but it works very effectively.

    Often known for playing serious, intense roles, Mikkelsen has a whale (chicken?) of a time playing against type as one very strange man who notices the smaller things and not the big picture. Barely recognisable, his strange haircut and trademark familial cleft on his lip is a way into the character’s mindset. Dencik and the other cast members also go ugly and unappealing, but yet there’s a tenderness to their onscreen chemistry which makes it touching and oddly appealing. Whatever the onscreen weirdness, this is a story that works on different levels and doesn’t take its audience for granted. There’s always another surprise just around the corner too. Fans of oddball cinema like this reviewer will find Men & Chicken delightful, sharply written and hilarious, hilarious, hilarious. ****