Wednesday, 22 February 2012


Rialto Distribution
Now Showing

Headhunters, adapted from the international bestselling novel by Norwegian author, Jo Nesbo, starts out resembling one type of film – that of the art heist – and soon morphs into another kind, one involving international corporate espionage, a killer who just won't quit and a strong vein of Nordic humour which you'll either get or not.

Roger Brown (Aksell Hennie, who looks for all the world like the offspring of Christopher Walken), works as a headhunter, seeking out the best corporate candidates for positions within his company. He also uses his position as a front for stealing expensive works of art from said prospective employees; no one seems to click when asked questions about their partner's work routine or whether or not they have a dog.

Part of the reason for Roger's sideline as an art thief is his wife, Diana (Synnove Macody Lund). Like the Greek goddess of beauty, she inspires love and devotion in Roger, and he believes this love is conditional on the life they've become accustomed to but can't afford.

Truth be told, Diana would be much happier with a baby than a home worthy of Norwegian Architectural Digest, but whether an aversion to children or an addiction to the money and thrills gained in robbery, Roger avoids the subject of parenthood at every opportunity.

Director Morten Tyldum deftly establishes Roger's double life, including his modus operandi with his security guard accomplice, Ove Kjikerud (Eivind Sander), and it's an intriguing set up for the film. But then events take a turn when Roger, through the art gallery-owning Diana, is introduced to Clas Greve (Game of Thrones's Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).

An ex-employee of a rival company, and a former mercenary, Clas is in Oslo to handle the estate of his recently deceased aunt, an estate which includes a Rubens painting, The Calydonian Boar Hunt; stolen by the Nazis in the 1940s and believed to be worth tens, possibly hundreds of millions of dollars.

Naturally, Roger's interest is piqued – this is the ship he's long been waiting on to come in – but it's while in the process of stealing the Rubens that he happens upon information that will have him rethinking both his marriage and his hiring of Clas; information which sets off a chain of events that sees Roger go on the run as his life turns to shit – quite literally at one point.

I'll say nothing of the twists and turns which the plot of Headhunters takes, only to say that it swings unevenly between an action-based conspiracy thriller and a black comedy, one which I was never quite sure I was supposed to be laughing with or at – or neither.

Still, I'm prepared to give Tyldum's film the benefit of the doubt and assume it's the Nordic sense of humour which in this instance has failed to translate, for as a thriller, Headhunters mostly works: there are some suspenseful moments and audacious action set pieces.

Granted, some of the film's action requires a suspension of disbelief but no more so than its American counterparts. And unlike the recent Contraband, which piled complication upon complication to very little effect, Headhunters is never dull as it proceeds to get crazier and bloodier.


  1. I think you described it rather well :) I haven't laughed so hard since I watched 'The Guard' last year. Such an unexpected black comedy!

  2. for sure you're supposed to be laughing with it! Such a good film, I'm so happy people are getting to see it finally.

  3. Sam, thanks for the read and comment, always appreciated. While I wasn't sure while watching it - I couldn't discern exactly what I was watching! - I think I came around to it while writing about it.

    Tom, thank you and welcome. Maybe I wasn't so sure of the Nordic sense of humour (though I did enjoy Troll Hunter!) but I was won over eventually.

  4. Tom... hmm, that'll take some getting used to.