Ribald exploration of men’s darkest instincts left unhampered by societal norms, Men & Chicken is a hybrid of dark Danish comedy and twisted social science experiment. Operating much like H.G. Wells’ three-time adapted novel “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, this twisted import from Anders Thomas Jensen tangles elements of slapstick physical comedy among chilling social horrors to create a psychosexual mystery circling the inescapable ideas of heritage and homecoming.
Jensen, who also wrote the script, unveils his darkly comic intents from curtain with Gabriel (David Denik) succumbing to a gag reflex-like tic as his hospital-bound father flat-lines by his flank. Phoning brother Elias (Mads Mikkelsen), the two raggedy siblings assemble to watch a last will and testament video that their father left in his wake – which Elias at first assumes is a video store rental of the Babe: Pig in the City variety. The confession reveals that they were both adopted from social outcast scientist Evelio Thanatos. This revelation prompts a bumbling journey to discover their true ancestry. But when the two abscond to the strange island of Ork, whose population barely hovers above the brink of being defined as a township, they find that their long-lost kin are not the family they were hoping for.
On the far flung residence of their biological father, Gabriel and Elias entreat with its occupancy; a ragtag group of harelipped brothers with limbo low IQs. Realizing they all share an unfortunate inheritance (facial deformities), Gabriel pleads for the right to pass so that he and Elias can put to rest their curiosity about their actual parentage. Their claims of familial relations are met with a taxidermy fowl to the noggin, followed by a network of wallops by 2×4. The scenes play out with seriocomic spice, too observant to register as the slapstick dance of The Three Stooges jig but not too far removed from the antics of such chowderheaded variety.
As the mustachioed Elias, Mikkelsen disappears behind a bewildering visage of repugnance. A dimwitted turkey marked by a cocktail of both arrogance and ignorance, Elias proves a fertile fulcrum for the somewhat wiser-to-the-world Gabriel to pivot from. Gone is Mikkelsen’s defining cool, his distinct impression of danger, his sexy, chiseled countenance, replaced by a grimacing dolt with a shaggy mop and bullish features. Fans of Mikkelsen’s dramatic work ought consider Men & Chicken necessary viewing if only for the fact that it offers Mikkelsen a maximal metamorphosis.
Jensen’s handling of this obligatorily odd material proves reliable as he unveils new (and increasingly off-putting) mysteries worthy of examination as the acts trod on. There’s elements of both Darwinism and bestiality blended into this bizarre saga, relegating it to the cult sector of cinema that many will label distasteful but some will inevitably glom onto for its strangeness alone. Men & Chicken somehow manages to enlist physical comedy of the most base level to get to something that’s actually intellectually complicated, if not overtly rich in thematic musings. Its over-the-top attitude and full-blooded commitment to its own eggheaded agenda makes for a spellbinding, if entirely bizarre, pit stop into Danish surrealism.
CONCLUSION: ‘Men & Chicken’ is an unlikely fit for the tastes of the masses but those desiring an offbeat, off-color dark comedy chockablock with nitwits conducting their dimwitted ballet will find ample mystery boiling beneath its doltish surface to make this odd affair a thing of strange intrigue.