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Men & Chicken Review

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On discovering they were adopted, Danish brothers Elias (Mads Mikkelsen) and Gabriel (David Dencik) head to the remote island of Ork to meet their natural father and three new half-siblings: Franz (Søren Malling), Josef (Nicolas Bro) and Gregor (Nikolaj Lie Kaas).

★★★★

The clue is in the title, but there's a good deal of strangeness to be negotiated before this dystopic Danish dramedy reveals its dark secret. Those familiar with Anders Thomas Jensen's previous directorial outings, The Green Butchers and Adam's Apples, will know what to expect, as he is no stranger to the grimly eccentric. But even the cannibals and neo-Nazis from these films can't quite prepare viewers for this bizarre blend of socko slapstick and weird science, which could have been titled, 'The Three Stooges Meet Dr Moreau'.

Brothers David Dencik and Mads Mikkelsen share facial deformities, but little else. Dencik is a philosophy professor, while Mikkelsen is a chronic masturbator. But they turn out to be the normal ones after they discover a trio of half-siblings, who greet their arrival at the crumbling sanitarium where they hide away from their island neighbours with an onslaught of cartoonish violence. Amidst the arguments over dinner plates and the aggressively competitive games of badminton, the cheese-loving Nicolas Bro displays a lively intelligence, while Nikolaj Lie Kaas is willing to be treacherous in order to meet girls. However, the short-fused Søren Malling remains determined to prevent Dencik from learning what their 99 year-old geneticist father has been up to in the basement.

Overrun with barnyard animals, the hellhole designed by Mia Stensgaard and photographed in sludgy hues by Sebastian Blenkov provides the atmospheric setting for what should be a horror story, but turns out to be a cosy domestic saga celebrating life in all its forms. The lead quintet excels, but the supporting players reinforce the deadpan mood that Jensen employs to make each grotesque revelation seem entirely natural. Oddly compelling.

Hilarious in places, hideous in others, this struggles to make its philosophical case. But the performances are exceptional and the conceit could not be more daring or distinctive.

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