Movie Review: Headhunters
By Shalimar Sahota
April 5, 2012
Before going in to Headhunters there was a feeling that this was most likely cashing in on the popularity of a certain Millennium Trilogy that also came out of Scandinavia; what with the marketing proclaiming that it’s produced by the same people. All I knew about the film was that it was a Norwegian thriller based on Jo Nesbø’s best-selling novel. Well, if future cash-ins all turn out to be as good as this one, then I don’t see there being any problem.
Roger Brown (Hennie) seems to have it all. He goes to work in designer suits, drives a Lexus, lives in a house you can only dream about, and is married to Diana (Lund), the kind of woman men can only have wet dreams about. The day job consists of working as a headhunter, recruiting potential applicants for a number of corporate jobs. It’s all quite boring, really. However, where Roger makes his real money is as an art thief, replacing expensive paintings with fakes. As his wife opens an art gallery, she introduces him to Clas Greve (Coster-Waldau), former CEO of a major GPS company. At first glance, he seems to be taller, smarter and has deeper pockets than Roger. He’s also a prime candidate for a position that Roger is currently recruiting for, with the GPS company Pathfinder. However, his devilishly good looks make it quite clear that he’s obviously hiding something.
Later, Diana reveals to her husband that during a conversation with Clas, he just so happened to mention that he had a Peter Paul Rubens painting in his possession that could be worth tens of millions. Drawn to the possibility of sorting out his financial problems, Roger works on stealing it for himself. However, after acquiring the painting, things start to get very weird, very quickly. Cue a body in a car, firing at milk cartons, microscopic transmitters, a vicious dog attack and a chase involving a tractor! It’s quite hard to believe just how much Roger goes through within the space of 48 hours.
Sidelining as an art thief, Roger runs the audience through his rules on the job, and we see that he keeps to them. The dodgy nature of the activity means that you’d better have a back-up plan in case things go wrong and surprisingly Roger doesn’t have one. Having to rapidly adjust to the ongoing situation on the fly, his initial attempts to resolve the escalating scenario (one he kind of brings upon himself) manage to land him into even bigger trouble. Midway through is where Headhunters turns into a thrilling cat and mouse pursuit, with offbeat black humor injected into the chase. The surprise is that it made me laugh out loud more than once, be it the struggle in disposing of a body, or any moment involving a tractor.
We’re made to feel sympathy for a character that largely doesn’t deserve any, yet by the end I wanted Roger to succeed. It gets by on Hennie’s great performance (more than once he is in tears), effectively portraying a man who loses everything, and in the process ends up learning more about himself and his wife.
Director Morten Tyldum knows he has a good story here and simply doesn’t let anything get in the way of telling it. Scenes that initially look like they’re padding the running time (fridges are opened quite a few times in this film) turn out to be of great significance. For example, Roger seems so intent on keeping hold of his impossibly beautiful wife, yet within the opening minutes we find out that he’s having an affair with someone named Lotte (Ølgaard). And no disrespect to Ølgaard, but after seeing this early on, I had to wonder; if he’s married to “that” then why on earth is he screwing “this”? We later learn that even “this” has its reasons as well.
The plot turns out to be weirdly intricate, with the reasoning behind what’s happening to Roger part of a much bigger scheme. The revelation is mentioned briefly and somewhat throwaway. Echoes to past conversations and flashbacks help fill in the blanks, but one plot hole involving Clas’ information on Roger lingers on. Unfortunately going any further would be considered a spoiler.
Should you happen to find the film showing nearby, paying for a ticket will reward you with a gem that’s deftly constructed, thrilling and amusing. A remake for people who are allergic to subtitles is already in the works. That alone ought to tell you that Headhunters is definitely worth your time.
Directed by – Morten Tyldum
Written by – Lars Gudmestad and Ulf Ryberg (adapted from Jo Nesbø’s novel)
Starring – Aksel Hennie, (Roger Brown), Synnøve Macody Lund (Diana Brown), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Clas Greve), Julie Ølgaard (Lotte), Eivind Sander (Ove Kjikerud),
Length – 100 minutes
Cert – 15 / R