Review: Headhunters

Plot: Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is an accomplished headhunter, but also lives a double-life as an art thief to pay for his lifestyle. That he is only 1.68m tall gives him a Napoleon complex, and thus the need to impress his tall beautiful wife with lavish gifts, who would in fact prefer a child. Through his wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) who opens a new art gallery in Oslo, he is introduced to the former mercenary Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Danish-Dutchman Claes Greve is the perfect candidate to Rogers new recruiting assignment, with his background as a former elite soldier and senior management in the electronics industry.

Review: Rarely do filmmakers create foreign language films that are safe enough for mainstream audiences to make a trip to an art house cinema. Most Americans don’t like to shell out their money to read on the screen and it usually takes a delightful comedy or gripping drama with solid Oscar buzz to get people to those theaters. The audiences aren’t typically bombarded with traditional advertisement about the particular film and they would typically have ‘heard’ about it from other people, or have a fascination with the subject matter, or stumbled across a review (maybe hopefully this one). However, the modern day Norwegian thriller “Headhunters” is an exception to this rule, which should bring people to the old cranky seats and ‘personality’ of the art house cinema. Abandoning comfort for an engaging and entertaining thriller isn’t all that bad a thing.

Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a successful, yet very insecure headhunter who recruits candidates for various positions. He lives a lavish, expensive life to satisfy his wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) an artist who would rather have a child than material possessions. Roger moonlights as an art thief to pay for this high-end lifestyle. Roger reminds the audience that he is only ‘1.68m tall’ and somewhat suffers from little man syndrome. Rooted in his insecurity is the fear of his wife will abandon him thus the need to impress her with lavish gifts. Through his wife Diana, Roger is introduced to a former mercenary Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Considering Clas has an established background as an elite soldier and Executive management in the electronics industry, Roger thinks he has an ideal candidate for a new recruiting assignment. Then Roger discovers Greve is in possession of a valuable painting valued at a high dollar. As Roger plots to steal the painting, he sees this as an opportunity to finally rid himself of all the financial problems. However, he becomes over his head when he uncovers a deeper plot. This cat and mouse game, as does fun for the viewer, begins.

The strongest element of “Headhunters” is the tightly constructed plot, which twists and turns keeping the audience both enthralled and entertaining. The audience becomes lost in the chaos and roots for Rogers who is on the run for his life. The slapstick use of gore and sarcastic jokes at inappropriate moments spur uncomfortable laughter from most of the audience. This gruesome thriller digs deep into the realms of the Norwegian dark world. Most of “Headhunters” reminded me of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ without Lisbeth Salander or the serial killer. It’s really that satisfying of a thriller! One moment even features Roger walking in on his wife Diana watching “The Girl Who Played With Fire” on television.

Another aspect to the thriller is the realism portrayed in the character of Roger Brown. Aksel Hennie delivers a convincing performance as an insecure businessman confused even trapped in a maze of deception. With wearing sharp suites and living in his modern sheikh residence, we can see through his demeanor and how he carries himself how insecure Roger truly is. We sympathize with his confusion as Roger becomes so desperate to keep his life that he hides in the feces of an out house to escape the clutches of a hit man.

Halfway through my screening of “Headhunters,” I was anticipating an American remake in the near future. Leave it to Hollywood to beat me to my premonition. Recently, Summit Entertainment bought the rights and Mark Walberg was cast in the American remake as the Roger Brown character. (At least he’s short.) Like the American remake of ‘Dragon Tattoo,’ I hope the studio finds a talented director. How I doubt an American remake will be as good without a Fincher-Rezner-Mara combination. “Headhunters” has been distributed in 50 countries more then any Norwegian film and really deserves your attention…even if you don’t like to read words on a screen.

I give Headhunters 7.75 out of 10

Clarification: Kenny is employed by the Cuban-Wagner Company, which owns Magnolia Pictures the distributor of “Headhunters.” This did not impair his judgment of the film.

About Kenny Miles

Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. When he isn’t writing, Kenny channels his passion for interacting with moviegoers (something most movie pundits lack) as a pollster for the market research company CinemaScore and working as floor staff/special events coordinator in the film community. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.

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