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Headhunters

Headhunters

Released 6 April 2012
Director Morten Tyldum
Starring

Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster Waldau, Synnove Macody Lund
Writer(s) Lars Gudmestad, Ulf Ryberg
Producer(s) Marianne Gray, Asle Vatn
Origin Norway, Germany
Running Time 100 minutes
Genre Action, crime, thriller
Rating 16
73

The hunt is on.

Stieg Larsson isn't the only publishing phenomenon to come out of Scandinavia in the last few years. Jo Nesbo has also hit bestseller lists worldwide with his series of crime novels, and now it is his turn for the cinematic adaptation. Headhunters has been adapted by Nesbo from his 2008 novel of the same name, and his gift for crafting strong dialogue, twisted plotlines and fast-paced action is just as evident on the silver screen.

The plot sees Roger Brown (Askel Hennie), successful corporate headhunter with a beautiful wife, struggling to maintain his obsession with reputation. He lives way beyond his means in order to impress people, and to fund this lifestyle he moonlights as an art thief. When Brown discovers that charismatic new arrival to Oslo Clas Greve (Nikolaj Costar-Waldau, best known for his role as Jaime Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones) owns one of the most sought after paintings in the world, he sees a way out of his financial problems and embarks on his most dangerous heist yet.

Of course things don’t exactly go smoothly. Following a superb first act of steadily building tension, Headhunters explodes into a relentless chase, a life or death game of cat and mouse. While Brown starts out extremely unlikeable (he is petty, vain, and cheats on his wife) once he is fighting for his life we can’t help but root for him. Hennie manages to create a genuine underdog charm in the role of hero, while Coster-Waldau brings a psychopathic intensity that is reminiscent of Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men.

Drawing comparisons to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (as it inevitably must) Headhunters’ slick direction and sharp editing leaves it feeling similar to the original Scandinavian trilogy of films. But while the Millennium Trilogy asked some profound questions about violence against women in society, Headhunters instead fixes its gaze upon modern day business conduct, status, “reputation”, and the corrupting nature of wealth. In financially austere times the setting is a perfect match, and the fact that it is only a setting which fades into the background once the real action gets started means that the film never seems preachy or moralising.

A lingering problem with the film is the sense that some of the razor sharp and lightning fast dialogue just isn’t having the same effect being read off subtitles, but the strong writing and acting is evident nonetheless. Headhunters is a solid, gripping thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat at its sharpest moments, and never lets the drama slack long enough for the mind of the audience to wander, subtitles or not.

- Bernard O’Rourke