August 13, 2012 1 Comment
Living in a high-end house he’s not particularly fond of, with a Napoleon complex and a wife he doesn’t feel he deserves, corporate headhunter Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) moonlights as an art thief in an endeavour to pay his bills and fund the lifestyle he believes Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) deserves. When his day job brings him into negotiations with Danish-Dutchman Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the proud owner of a priceless Rubens, however, Roger attempts to effect an early retirement backfire as Greve’s hidden past reveals itself, forcing him to flee Oslo with the painting in tow.
Film: Resembling The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo less than the posters might have you believe (though both are indeed based on two Scandinavian best-sellers), Headhunters has more in common with the similarly Norwegian likes of Troll Hunter and Eddie The Sleepwalking Cannibal. With its dark sense of humour and surrealist flights of fancy, Headhunters paints Oslo as a corporate metropolis that is all art galleries and champagne receptions, before the besuited businessmen at its heart descend into an absurdest escalation that is as slick as it is delightfully sick.
Despite his miniature status, Aksel Hennie makes a big impression as the film’s blonde-locked protagonist. While never likeable, he nevertheless earns his audience’s sympathies as things go from bad to absolutely catastrophic. Often played mercilessly for laughs, his truly thankless struggles bring to mind Mr. Bean’s own short-lived strife as an art thief, although with much greater success. By the point he is shaving futuristic transmitters from his own injured head, presumably still reeking from his earlier submergence in shit, you really are willing to forgive each and every character flaw as he tries to escape Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s unforgiving and wholly amoral predator.
The film’s biggest success, however, lies in its attempts to blend Hollywood frills with the deathly dry sensibilities of Norwegian cinema, without compromising on smarts and style. There are few death-defying stunts, no obvious green screen and camera work that isn’t needlessly reassembled in the editing room, but the film still engages with a big-budget sheen that should open previously barricaded doors for it amongst choosier foreign audiences. While I can’t comment on the debt the film might owe to Jo Nesbø’s source material, I can praise the work of Norwegian-German director Morten Tyldum and his team of dedicated filmmakers. Like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo before it – and perhaps this is from where such comparisons stem – it is not the story itself that sells the movie but the verve with which it is told.
While an American remake is inevitably in the works (with British journalist Sacha Gervasi currently in charge of the screenplay), I really recommend that you seek out the movie in its original form. Elegently made, but with room for the sort of manic insanity through which the country excels, Headhunters is undoubtedly one of the best thrillers of last year.
Extras: The DVD comes with a behind-the-scenes featurette and a copy of the film’s theatrical trailer. While slight, the bonus material does entertain, as the cast and crew go into considerable detail about various aspects of filming. Whether detailing the negotiations required to borrow Coster-Waldau from HBO’s Game of Thrones or attributing one of the films most impressive sequences to an episode of Top Gear, the material is both informative and engaging.