“Headhunters” really gets into your head [MOVIE REVIEW]

Askel Hennie in HEADHUNTERS, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

“Headhunters” is a rare combination of art, commerce and action that grabs hold of you until your head is spinning and your senses reeling. This Norwegian gem has surprises in store at every corner, and this is a place made up entirely of corners.

Roger Brown is charming and smart, a highly respected corporate recruiter married to the ultra beautiful Diana. Roger is also insecure, primarily about his height and his ability to attract one as stunning as Diana if not for the lifestyle he provides. Living way beyond his means, the thoroughly non-plussed Roger also steals fine art to supplement his income. With inside information on the location of easily saleable paintings and prints and the help of his accomplice Ove, who as head of the local security service (a job he got through Rodger’s recommendation) is able to dismantle the alarm systems of their targets, Roger has perfected a cat burglar approach to steal the bounty himself.

When Diana introduces Roger to Clas Greve, Roger discovers two things. Greve, who is in the process of moving into town from Amsterdam, is the perfect candidate to fill the vacant CEO position at a GPS firm and that he has recently come into possession of a painting by Rubens worth many millions. This seeming triple bar jackpot is not, however, what it appears and Roger becomes enmeshed in a deadly chase where the headhunter becomes the hunted head.

“Headhunters,” adapted from Jo Nesbo’s best seller, is directed by Morten Tyldum. Tyldum, primarily known in his native Norway as a commercials director and unknown internationally, should be on the top of every Hollywood studio’s list of action directors after this film is released. Pacing is non-stop, tension is wire-taut, sympathies travel back and forth at light speed as the viewer tries to keep track of who does what to whom and why and how. A master at creating an earthquake of cataclysmic results from seemingly minor or inconsequential events, Tyldum will have you jumping out of your seats as that first pebble metaphorically rolls down that hill loosening all those other stones until there is an avalanche of Biblical proportions and who lives and who dies is unknown until the dust settles. And as devastatingly grim as this sounds, the film is infused throughout with light touches, irony and hilarious situations that will have you laughing loudly while holding on to that armrest in anticipation of what comes next.

The cast of “Headhunters” is pitch perfect including Synove Macody Lund playing Diana in her feature debut. Formerly a model, evident by her graceful cadence, lithe body and extraordinary blonde beauty, she also projects the sympathy and depth necessary to anchor her character and illustrate why Roger might believe he married above his rank. Eivind Sander as Ove, is that dangerous combination of moron and unstable criminal, a man who cannot choose between a weekend with a Russian prostitute and carrying out a caper worth a fortune.

The true stars of this film are the cat and mouse – Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Clas) and Aksel Hennie (Roger). Coster-Waldau is a familiar face to television viewers as he starred in the short-lived Fox series “New Amsterdam” and, more importantly, is a series regular on the HBO cult favorite “Game of Thrones.” Coster-Waldau, beautiful to behold, portrays an alpha dog who has never been challenged successfully and knows how to take out any enemy blocking his path. Never has a man this handsome been this frightening. He is breathtakingly suave, sophisticated and deadly; you can’t take your eyes off him even as you try unsuccessfully to get your bearings.

Hennie is a revelation. Handsome, smart, successful with a beautiful wife, he intriguingly plays a man whose massive hubris is undone by his physical insecurity. Hennie’s Roger is unsympathetic at the outset, acquiring depth as time, ambition and desire are knocked out of him. He makes us care about him and his situation as the danger increases. He becomes an everyman whose poorly prioritized values have left him drowning, gradually recognizing his faults as he starts going down for the third time.

Nothing is at it seems in this film and that makes it an absolute must-see. It’s only a matter of time before Hollywood remakes this movie, so make sure you see the original first. Like “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” the original is going to be better (probably by a whole lot).

Opening Friday April 27 at the Landmark Theatre. In Norwegian with subtitles.

Neely also writes a blog about writers in television and film at http://www.nomeanerplace.com


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Written by: Neely Swanson

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