An accomplished headhunter risks everything to obtain a valuable painting owned by a former mercenary.An accomplished headhunter risks everything to obtain a valuable painting owned by a former mercenary.An accomplished headhunter risks everything to obtain a valuable painting owned by a former mercenary.
Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a 168cm recruitment consultant with a big house, a beautiful wife and an inferiority complex that drives him to moonlight as an art thief. The prosaically named protagonist is no Thomas Crown - he steals to keep a (wildly overleveraged) roof over his head and only pockets a measly 30% of the revenue from his ill-gotten gains. Even his appearance is counterintuitive - more bug eyed Steve Buscemi than suited and booted Bond. Even so, there's more going on here than meets the eye, but suffice to say that his real troubles start when he decides to go after The Big One - the retirement score that will put an end to his financial troubles and allow him to keep his ridiculously attractive wife in the style to which he's become accustomed.
To say anything more about the plot would be superfluous, but I will take a moment to admire the confidence of the director Morten Tyldum. Headhunters is, in a sense, typically Scandinavian - stark, brooding and with as much silence as dialogue. The style here serves the substance - the camera is often completely immobile, forcing the audience to concentrate on what's going on, a complete contrast to the craftsmanship/gimmickry more typical of glossy mainstream thrillers coming out of the US. Rather than spoonfeeding the audience every single clue, Headhunters isn't afraid to lead the unwitting watcher on a merry dance. Naturally the whole enterprise rests on the small but perfectly formed cast, particularly Hennie, with whom we slowly come to empathise, and the more typically suave Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau as the former exec with a murky past.
If Headhunters has a particular weakness, it's that it spends most of its time descending into increasingly dark (and occasionally graphically violent) territory, while occasionally veering into light hearted caper. This does feel slightly bewildering, but to be honest, it's a relative minor criticism. Headhunters is definitely worth catching (particularly given the woefully slim pickings over the past few months), if not now, then 6 months from now when it premieres on Film Four in the middle of the night. Scandinavians (and cinéastes with a penchant for Northern European film) may be used to this kind of thing, but for the rest of us it's a wonderfully welcome arctic blast through the land's tat filled cinema screens.
- Apr 8, 2012