out of Five
Running time: 98
Enjoyable, fast paced, blackly comic and occasionally horror-tinged thriller with a sharp script, impressive direction and a terrific central performance from Aksel Hennie.
What's it all about?
Directed by Morten Tyldum, Headhunters is based on the novel by Jo Nesbo and stars Aksel Hennie as smooth-talking recruitment specialist Roger Brown, who moonlights as an art thief in order to keep his drop dead gorgeous (not to mention taller) wife Diana (Synnove Macody Lund) supplied with a constant stream of cripplingly expensive gifts.
When Diana introduces Roger to charismatic, super suave Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Roger plots to steal the famously 'lost'
Rubens painting he boasts of owning, under the guise of helping him land a high powered job.
However, while stealing the painting Roger makes a shocking discovery and soon he's running for his life, pursued by both the police (who think he's a murderer) and a high-tech assassin who somehow seems to know his every move.
Aksel Hennie is superb, managing to keep Roger sympathetic even though he's an objectionable character in many ways; consequently, the script delights in heaping as many indignities on him as possible, from stripping him naked to forcing him to hide in six feet of human shit. There's also strong support from Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and enjoyable turns from Eivand Sander (as Ove, Roger's hapless partner in crime), Julie Olgaard (as Roger's recently dumped ex-girlfriend) and Reidar Sorensen as the dogged police detective on Roger's case.
Tyldum maintains a terrific sense of pace throughout, keeping Roger constantly on the move once things kick off. He also orchestrates some genuinely thrilling set pieces, such as a Duel-style collision with a truck or a blackly comic scene involving a tractor chase and a dead dog.
It's perhaps no coincidence that the lead character is named Roger – the name is almost certainly a nod to Cary Grant's character in North By Northwest, with which the film shares its relentless sense of pace, its paranoia inducing man-on-the-run plot and a delicious streak of jet black humour. There's also an intriguing tinge of horror that works well, plus an undeniably enjoyable, timely element that's the modern day equivalent of the yuppie-in-peril movie.
The only real problem with the film is that the tricksy ending isn't quite as clever-clever as the script obviously thinks it is, particularly not if a) you've been paying attention or b) you've seen a thriller before. However, this is a minor quibble that doesn't spoil the overall enjoyment of the film.
Headhunters is a hugely enjoyable, blackly comic Norwegian thriller with a strong sense of pace, a superb script and a terrific central performance from Aksel Hennie. Highly recommended.