The dark comedy is one of the movie industry’s least appreciated genres. That is likely because it isn’t a genre targeted at widespread audiences. It is very much a niche genre. Movies such as Fargo, The Cable Guy and others of that ilk are prime examples of that. They are movies that will not appeal as widely as general comedies and rom-coms. So it’s understandable that when Men & Chicken (from M&M Productions and DCM Productions) was imported to America early this year, it didn’t exactly make a big splash. It had the cards stacked against it being an import and a foreign language flick and being a dark comedy. But suffice it to say that fans of dark comedies whose minds are open enough will appreciate this movie. It is potentially the most bizarre dark comedy that the genre’s fans will ever see, but still one that any dark comedy fan should see at least once. That is due at least in part to its story, which is definitely original to say the very least. The work of the movie’s cast can’t be ignored here either. It is just as important to note. The movie’s packaging in its recent home release (via Drafthouse Films) is also important to its presentation. One could also note the bonus booklet and bonus digital download provided in the movie’s home release in examining its presentation, too. All things considered, Men & Chicken shows itself to be a bizarre work of a dark comedy, but a work nonetheless, that every dark comedy fan should see at least once. Fair warning to those fans, though: Once it’s been seen, it can’t be unseen.
Late this past October, indie movie studio Drafthouse Films released the Danish dark comedy Men & Chicken for American audiences on DVD/BD/digital combo pack. The movie was originally released in its home country early last year and imported to American theaters early this year. In other words, it has been a long road for this movie to finally be available for American home viewers. Truly open-minded dark comedy fans will agree that long wait was well worth it, too. That statement is supported primarily via the movie’s story. The story centers on two brothers, Gabriel and Elias, who find out that they are not related by blood after the death of their father. As the duo heads out together in search of their birth mothers, they meet three other men who turn out to be half brothers, too. However, the trio isn’t what Elias and Gabriel (or audiences) expect. The men—Gregor, Franz and Josef—live in an empty mansion where they grew up. When any of the trio does something really bad, he is put in a cage (yes, a cage) on the mansion’s property or is beaten with a random blunt object. The physical comedy is disturbing to say the very least. At the same time, one can’t deny the similarity between the trio’s physical comedy to that of the Three Stooges. Sure, the comedy here is a little bit more violent to say the least. But the similarity is there regardless. It can’t be denied. That’s just part of what makes the movie so bizarre and entertaining all at once. The secrets that are revealed as Gabriel and Elias investigate the mansion will leave dark comedy fans laughing just as much as they will be left scratching their heads. It sounds confusing, but that is perhaps the story’s purpose; to entertain dark comedy fans in a way that no other dark comedy ever has. Throughout the process, audiences will laugh uproariously at the dinner scenes in which the brothers quarrel over (of all things) the dinner plates. What is interesting here is that in hindsight, there is actually a connection between the plates and the secrets revealed through Gabriel and Elias’ investigation. Audiences will only catch the connection if they make themselves sit through the entirety of the nearly two-hour movie. That shouldn’t be tough for real dark comedy fans to do. As an added note, audiences who watch through the whole movie will also agree that while the movie’s story is extremely bizarre and twisted, it also has a certain heart about it, too. That is exhibited through the story’s emphasis on family. There is a lot noted here in regards to the story presented in Men & Chicken. Even with everything noted (and everything not noted) it should be clear that the story at the center of this movie is undeniably important to the movie’s presentation. It is just one of the movie’s key elements. The cast’s work on camera is just as important to note in examining the movie’s presentation as its story.
The story at the heart of Men & Chicken is undeniably an important piece of the movie’s presentation. That is the case even as twisted and bizarre as it is. It is original. There’s no denying that. And it has a fair balance of heart along with its dark comedic elements. While the movie’s story is clearly an important part of the movie’s presentation, it is just one of the movie’s most important elements. The work of the movie’s cast in front of the camera is just as important to note in examining the movie’s presentation as the movie’s story. David Dencik (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, A Royal Affair, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) is outstanding both on his own and alongside his cast mates. His very portrayal of Gabriel as the nerdy yet somewhat neurotic figure is so entertaining. He makes Gabriel a fully sympathetic character as he has to deal with his newly found, almost feral (subtle hint here) half brothers. Dencik’s balance of innocence and determination to find the answers about his birth mother is spot on from beginning to end. Speaking of Dencik’s cast mates, they are just as entertaining in their own right. Audiences will be especially interested to watch Soren Malling (A Royal Affair, Idealisten, A Hijacking) in the role of Franz. Malling is a professionally trained comedic actor, so this role was a good fit for him. He expertly tackles Franz’s serious demeanor in his portrayal. At the same time, his tendencies toward using stuffed animals to beat his brothers (and apparently others) is just as hilarious, even as disturbing as it is. It makes this seemingly serious character just as disturbed as his “brothers” and in turn, shows again the importance of the cast’s work. Nicolas Bro and Nikolaj Lie Kaas are just as entertaining as Josef and Gregor, who live with Franz in the family mansion where Gabriel and Elias meet them. The pair’s innocence and disturbed nature is handled just as expertly by Bro and Kaas as Malling’s take on Franz. Mads Mikkelson’s take on Elias adds to the picture to make for even more hilarity. Each man’s work is clearly important to the whole of the cast’s impact on the movie’s presentation. All things considered, the cast’s work here proves to be just as important to the whole of Men & Chicken as the story at the center of the movie.
Both the story at the center of Men & Chicken and the work of the movie’s cast are important to the movie’s overall presentation. That has hopefully been made clear by now. While both elements are clearly important in their own right to the movie’s overall presentation, they are not its only key elements. The movie’s packaging in its recent home release is just as important to note as its story and acting. The movie was released late this past October on DVD/BD/digital combo pack. The movie’s DVD and BD presentations each receive their own disc here. The digital download is provided via a code included on an insert inside the movie’s case. That is all well and good. But what is truly intriguing about the movie’s packaging is the manner in which the movie’s DVD and BD discs are packaged. They are packaged in a fashion similar to the older multi-disc packaging format, with one disc overlapping the other. However, it is not directly identical to that format. In fact the secondary package is placed in such fashion that while the primary disc still has to be removed in order to access it and replace it, that secondary disc won’t be damaged when replaced because of where the spindle is placed in comparison to the primary disc’s spindle. It must be seen to be fully appreciated. While the discs could have been better packaged (as in the form of most modern multi-disc DVD and BD sets), packaging the movie’s discs as they were handled here is still actually smart in its own way. It still isn’t the last element that could be noted in examining the movie’s overall presentation, either. The movie’s availability on digital download in the movie’s packaging and the companion booklet that comes with the movie’s packaging are both key in their own right, too. All things considered, the overall presentation of Men & Chicken, with its bizarre yet original story and equally entertaining acting and packaging makes this movie a work that every dark comedy fan should see at least once.
Men & Chicken is one of the most twisted, bizarre dark comedies to come along in a very long time. It is a work that may even surprise American dark comedy fans. That is thanks to the clear influence of not only the Cohen Brothers but also because of the classic slapstick elements of The Three Stooges in the brothers’ interactions. The incorporation of the dark elements of The Island of Dr. Moreau into the story makes it stand out even more. It is quite the interesting hybrid to say the least. But it works here, and because it works as well as it does, it will leave American audiences agreeing it is a story that every dark comedy fan should see at least once. The story is just one element to note in examining the movie’s presentation. The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note here as the story itself. Both by themselves and alongside one another the movie’s cast shines superbly here. The movie’s packaging in its recent domestic release via Drafthouse Films is just as important to note as anything else in examining what makes this indie import such a surprise hit. The companion booklet that comes with the movie’s home release and its digital download round out the most important of the movie’s elements in its home release. Each element proves important in its own right, as has already been proven here. All together, they make Men & Chicken, once again, a work that every dark comedy fan should see at least once. It is available now and can be ordered online direct via Drafthouse Films’ online store here. More information on this and other titles from Drafthouse Films is available online now at:
To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.