Based on a bestselling crime novel by enormously popular Norwegian author Jo Nesbø, Headhunters starts out with one simple premise.Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie, a huge star in Norway who is destined for international success any day now) is a successful corporate recruiter – a headhunter – who uses his job as a cover for his side gig as an art thief. he needs the money in order to keep his drop dead gorgeous (not to mention taller) wife Diana (Synnove Macody Lund) supplied with a constant stream of cripplingly expensive gifts. When Diana introduces Roger to charismatic, super suave Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Roger plots to steal the famously ‘lost’ Rubens painting he boasts of owning, under the guise of helping him land a high powered job
When things don’t go exactly as Roger planned, a series of events is set in motion that spirals quickly out of control. Before he has time to figure out what exactly is happening, Roger is trying to fight his way out of a pretty massive web of deception and betrayal. Soon he’s running for his life, pursued by both the police (who think he’s a murderer) and a high-tech assassin who somehow seems to know his every move
Aksel Hennie is superb, managing to keep Roger sympathetic even though he’s an objectionable character in many ways, cocky, arrogant and insensitive; consequently, the script delights in heaping as many indignities on him as possible, from stripping him naked to forcing him to hide in six feet of human excrement, to being mauled by a dog and, in an ingenious sequence, toppled over a cliff by a Mac Truck while sitting in the back of a cop car between two heavy set police men. There’s also strong support from Coster-Waldau and enjoyable turns from Eivand Sander (as Ove, Roger’s hapless partner in crime), Julie Olgaard (as Roger’s recently dumped ex-girlfriend) and Reidar Sorensen as the dogged police detective on Roger’s trail
Is it a coincidence that the lead character is named Roger, as is Cary Grant’s character in North By Northwest, with which the film shares its relentless sense of pace, its paranoia inducing man-on-the-run plot and a delicious streak of jet black humour? There’s also an intriguing tinge of horror that works well, plus an undeniably enjoyable, timely element that’s the modern day equivalent of the yuppie-in-peril movie
Director Morten Tyldum maintains a terrific sense of pace throughout, keeping Roger constantly on the move once things kick off. He also orchestrates some genuinely thrilling set pieces, such as a Duel-style collision with a truck or a blackly comic scene involving a tractor chase and a dead dog
You may not believe in certain aspects of the plot, but that’s what the movies are about: suspending belief. You pay to sit in a darkened room for two hours and watch an unrealistic story unfold because it offers a short but blissful break from reality. In Headhunters, nothing ever ends as you expect it to, and the great performances and tightly constructed story surprise and satisfy at every turn. This is the kind of universally enjoyable thriller that Hollywood has all but forgotten how to make, so it’s no surprise that an American remake set to star Mark Wahlberg is supposedly in the works. Make sure you watch this Norwegian original first. Highly recommended
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