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Directed by Mortem Tyldum. Starring Aksel Hennie, SynnÝve Macody Lund, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Eivind Sander. Thriller, Norway, 98 mins, cert TBC.
Released on UK screens by Momentum on the 6th of April.
Roger Brown (Hennie) appears to have the perfect life. Hugely successful as a corporate headhunter, he has a beautiful wife, a stylish house, and a shiny Lexus. A short man in a country famed for giants, Roger has some serious self esteem issues lurking behind the well tailored armour of his sharp suits. His beautiful wife Diana is the very definition of a classic Norwegian beauty, but she is also intelligent, and successful in her own right in the art world. Roger is convinced that she cannot really love him on his own merits and has seriously overextended himself by buying her expensive gifts and bankrolling her art gallery. To pay for this, as well as the Lexus, the house, and the suits, Brown is moonlighting as an art thief, sounding out the business leaders he interviews for their art collections, then ripping them off with the aid of an unscrupulous security guard with a fondness fro Russian prostitutes.
The Norwegian tech firm Brown is working for is looking for a new CEO. So when he is introduced to Clas Greve (Coster-Waldau) the former CEO of a Dutch rival at one of his wife’s gallery openings he is immediately interested. When he then finds out that Greve is in Norway because he may have inherited a priceless Reubens, Brown thinks all his Christmases have arrived at once.
Brown carefully courts the seemingly disinterested Greve as a potential new CEO while making the arrangements to steal his painting. Whilst the theft proceeds smoothly, the first of the films major twists throws Brown’s carefully ordered life into disarray. He finds himself one the run, pursued by both the authorities and a ruthless killer and watches his carefully maintained lifestyle collapse like a house of cards.
Based on a novel by Scandanvian crime writer Jo NesbÝ, HEADHUNTERS is a gripping thriller that owes something to yuppie nightmare films of the eighties such as Martin Scorsese’s AFTER HOURS. Like this film, it also awes a great deal to Hitchcock in its morally compromised protagonist, narrative twists, and cruel black humour. Once the chase is on, Brown finds himself in a succession on increasingly ridiculous tight spots. He escapes from these with his skin barely intact, by jumping blindly into situations which invariably turn out to be even worse.
Among the cast Aksel Hennie is terrific as Brown, his early confidence and swagger disintegrating into a masterful study of hysterical panic. As his foe the Dutch actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (from TV’s GAME OF THRONES) is the exact opposite, a model of composure and icy cool. There is also a very amusing supporting role for Eivind Sander as the cheerfully corrupt security guard Ove, with his love of firearms, prostitutes and homemade porn.
In addition to fine leading performances, the film is also lifted above a run-of-the-mill thriller by the thick streak of dark Scandinavian humour that is shot through it. Some of the outlandish things Brown is forced to do to evade Greve go well into gross-out territory. As mentioned the humour is reminiscent of Hitchcock at his most cruel, but also dark wit found in early Coen Brothers films’ such as BLOOD SIMPLE. Norwegian director Mortem Tyldum rarely allows the pace to flag, which is just as well as the plot constantly teeters on the edge of an abyss of preposterousness.
One might expect given the title and the corporate trappings of the story, that HEADHUNTERS might have something to say politically about modern business. However it really doesn’t have anything more on its mind that being an exciting thriller, and is none the worse for that. This is well worth catching before the inevitable American remake is foisted upon us.
Sturart Barr. Review first published on www.screenjabber.com
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