Review: Men & Chicken
What came first, the chicken or the men? In the case of the gory, bizarre Men & Chicken, the latest from Danish writer and director Anders Thomas Jensen, the question is eventually addressed (though unanswered), but the audience will have to get there first. This means a threat of walkouts, distaffs and people that simply won’t “get” the film. Admittedly, it does take a bit of time to understand the tone, but for those that stick with it, (and aren’t chicken), this film will be a memorable one.
However, the difficulty comes early on. This is because in a truly weird prologue, the narrator of the film goes out of their way to denigrate the two major characters, Gabriel (David Dencik) and especially Elias (Mads Mikkelsen, definitely playing against type). Elias and Gabriel are unlikable.
There is no way around this point, and if the narration does not make this clear, their behaviour does even more to discredit them, (the awful moustache and hairpiece sported by Mikkelsen helps, too). Just when the film cannot get any more uncomfortable, these brothers take a road trip to Island of Ork to meet three more brothers…and then the film gets even weirder.
Ultimately, though, what salvages the film is its humanity, ironically. Jensen and his troupe are clearly familiar with one another and can hit all of the necessary comedic beats. While the lead-up is a little cracked, the payoff becomes quite profound and even a little bit moving. But it takes a certain sort of (hu)man to really get to the heart and the soul of Men & Chicken.