Headhunters: Film Review

Headhunters

The boy with the dreadful complex.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN a guy feels himself too short, too pale and too ugly for his gorgeously beautiful wife? Naturally, he over compensates. For corporate headhunter Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), over compensation comes by way of providing for his wife through dodgy means, namely stealing art objects. And he does fairly well at it until a new threat to his marriage and income arrives in the form of tall, blond and handsome named Clas Greve (Game Of Thrones’ Nicolaj Coster-Waldau).

This is what Morten Tyldum’s Headhunters is all about. Adapted from Jo Nesbø’s bestselling novel, the Scandinavian thriller with script penned by Lars Gudmestad and Ulf Ryburg cleverly combines dark humor and brutal action with even proportions, which is rarely found in the genre. Roger Brown is not an overly sympathy-inducing character – he is vain, manipulative and cheats on his wife (Synnøve Macody Lund) with another woman (Julie R. Ølgaard) – and the threats Clas pose to him seem justifiable in the beginning.

That sentiment stops, though, once we see how doggedly he is pursued by Coster-Waldau’s ex-soldier. First Clas comes after him with the help of his feral pet dog, which forces him to go snorkeling in a pit of human waste. Then he pushes him over a cliff. There’s a fine line between putting someone in his place and being deliberately cruel and ultimately it’s Clas’ immoral motives pushes us over to side with Roger and root for his survival.

From a solid writing, comes superior filmmaking. The twist is shocking and unexpected, brilliantly executed by Tyldum who enforces once again that Northern European penchant for mainstream filmmaking excellence. It is the kind of crime storytelling Hollywood forever tries to copy but has not quite grasped within its grubby fingers. And they can only wish they have charismatic leads such as Hennie who is the perfect choice to play Roger. Captivating throughout the feature, we certainly hope he will follow in Noomi Rapace’s footsteps and take the world by storm as Norway’s number one acting import.

THE VERDICT
A refined blend of black comedy and intense action, Headhunters never lets up the tension. We have to hand it to the Scandinavians: they really do know how to write, direct and act.

TALKING POINT
Aksel Hennie on the his diving-in-the-toilet scene: “It was a mix of breadcrumbs, olive oil, chocolate mousse, chocolate fondant, granola and a lot of coffee – which led to my girlfriend not drinking coffee for a year!”

*

The Indonesian version of this review will appear in Total Film Indonesia Issue #30, out in April 2012.

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