Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas (Michael Kohlhaas) (NR)

Drama 122 May 30, 2014
By Rob Staeger
With a premise like Rob Roy and a title like a video game, one might expect Arnaud des Pallières's Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas to be louder. But instead of embracing its inner Braveheart, the feudal revenge drama sacrifices thrills in favor of moral reflection in the unspoiled French countryside, keeping most of its violence at arm's length. When dogs are set on a man, we don't see the attack, only evidence of the wounds. Mounted soldiers attack a caravan, and we watch from atop a hill; guards drop silently as horsemen pass.

This muted approach robs the film of sorely needed momentum, but offers a rare opportunity for contemplation, a trade-off that only sometimes satisfies. As Kohlhaas, a merchant wronged by a young noble, Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal) is charismatic and taciturn, buoyed by pride and a need for justice. He gathers an army, enforcing a strict code of conduct among his men. Yet his ethics don't stand unchallenged: In a pivotal scene, he's confronted by a respected theologian (Holy Motors' Denis Lavant, electric here), who charges that his supposed morality is nonetheless sending people to the grave. It's a point glossed over in livelier epics.
Arnaud des Pallières Mads Mikkelsen, Mélusine Mayance, David Bennent, Paul Bartel, Bruno Ganz, David Kross, Denis Lavant, Delphine Chuillot, Amira Casar, Roxane Duran Christelle Berthevas, Arnaud des Pallières Christian Paumier, Serge Lalou, Gunnar Dedio, Martina Haubrich Music Box Films

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