Headhunters (2011)

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Unquestionably slick and even more undeniable is the bloodiness involved in this Norwegian-Danish film. There’s a sure ride to bolt yourself into as you hurtle through the thrills of watching the lead character try and outdo a capable tracker and ex special forces guy.

Intelligent headhunter Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) may have the job and wife of a rich man but his finances are more troubling, which is why he frequently pals up with a friend to steal art and sell it on. At the opening of his wife Diana’s (Synnove Macody Lund) gallery, Brown meets Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who wants to work for the company Brown represents, he also happens to own a valuable painting, which leads Roger down a slippery and very dangerous slope.

Based on a successful novel by Jo Nesbo, this is an exhilarating screenplay by Ulf Ryberg and Lars Gudmestad who ensure the pace is kept sharp and fast and even with a couple of far-fetched moments we still buy into the narrative. It says something that a character I began not liking ended up being one I rooted for simply down to that struggle that universally gets audiences on board. Characters are great when they have flaws but Roger and his ways outside of the coupling with Diana make you less than sympathetic when she does the same thing, so it doesn’t hit as strongly, like if he’d never been with another woman.

Morten Tyldum of last year’s ‘The Imitation Game’ fame and nominated glory was on it way before Sherlock Holmes dealt with codes and sexuality (which sounds like Sherlock anyway!). He directs in a way that’s almost break neck after the twenty minute mark, it’s like a muddy Bourne as the action follows a singular male in ever dangerous scenarios forever being tracked down. There’s a slick touch throughout but that doesn’t mean that Tyldum doesn’t forego on the grittier bloody side of things, including a moment that’s literally full of s**t.

You kind of never know what to expect, even if the ending is always something you see coming, you aren’t 100% sure of how the movie will reach that point. That of course is a mark of good directing and story-telling. The thrills are strong and brutal imagery is not something you’ll avoid watching this movie, a dog being a great if not sad example of that. In a strange way this movie has elements of black humour and also comes across like a ‘Hustle’ episode in the way it feels like people are being conned or double-bluffed, the ending and how the police will report everything is dealt with in a way that Tony Jordan of BBC notoriety would have enjoyed with his own gang led by Mickey Bricks.

Coster-Waldau has that usual charm we now all know and mostly love thanks to ‘Game of Thrones’, but he adds to it with a mysterious threat and hit-man edge that keeps him motivated and solely focused on getting Roger. Lund plays Diana in a way that makes you feel at first that she could be a boring typical wife role, but then the film develops and so does your view on just who she is and what to make of her which is acted well by her. Hennie is the star and goes through hell and high blood from suited rich man to stripped and shaved victim, for the price of stealing art.

I really don’t want Hollywood to remake this, even though they’re planning on it. Why? Well because this is so well made, gory, strange and exciting that trying to replicate it will be terrible. A thriller that ticks all the boxes and adds new ones too.

7.5/10

 

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