Headhunters (Norwegian: Hodejegerne), 2011.
Directed by Morten Tyldum.
Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Julie R. Ølgaard, Aksel Hennie and Synnove Macody Lund.
Norweigan corporate recruitment headhunter Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) steals art on the side to finance his opulent lifestyle and to impress his beautiful wife Diana (Synnove Macody Lund). He meets a potential client in famed former CEO and mercenary Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and discovers that he may have a piece of art so valuable that if he steals it he can retire from his illegal extra curricular activity. This ‘one last job’ gets him caught up in a chaotic, brutal, macabre and pretty hilarious series of scenarios that twist and turn until the conclusion.
This is a surprise package of a film. The protagonist Roger suffers with ‘tiny man’ inadequacy and thinks that being able to shower his glamorous wife with every possible luxury keeps him punching above his weight. He’s a believable underdog; a ‘small-time’ crook that is equal doses of charming and pathetic. It’s fun to watch a protagonist with brains, clearly physically over matched having to use his ingenuity to get himself out of the quagmire of being pursued by an expert mercenary. There’s gruesome, over-the-top violence that in the beginning seems to be played straight – but as the film progresses and the challenges become seemingly insurmountable, I had a lot of fun laughing out loud at the lengths Roger takes for self-preservation.
Director Morten Tyldum does a great job of eliciting audible gasps and groans from the audience. He plays with your expectations of what Roger can handle, and just when you think he’s found a way out of the mess there’s a degree worse that you don’t expect, and it’s fun to explore. There are some moments that felt as if Headhunters was trying to make the core relationship between Roger and Diana authentic to anchor the story in a ‘reality’. This seemed to distract from the black comedic tone that the majority of the film pursued. And this may sound perverse but there’s something interesting and refreshing watching European films and seeing the distinct cultural shifts regarding sex. In fleeting and ‘normal’ feeling moments, Julie R. Ølgaard as Lotte is involved in a quite graphic sex scene and the beautiful Diana (Synnove Macody Lund) is nude in the shower and is admired by her husband – it does get pretty tiresome in sexually repressed “sex with bras on” Hollywood.
I should mention the supporting characters; they all do a good job of progressing the plot. Clas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is the beautiful, successful, dangerous and emotionless antagonist to Roger, which compliments his fragility well. The rest of the characters merely serve as sign posts to the next layer of Roger’s hellish state.
Headhunters is ridiculous, macabre, fun that looks like it will be remade by Mark Wahlberg for Hollywood, which means that you should see the original before it’s irrevocably ruined, but then makes a load of money and affords Hollywood ambassadors the opportunity to pillage other foreign products for sanitation.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film *** / Movie ***