We all need to give Norwegian cinema more of a chance. We’re used to seeing a lot of French and Latin films on our screens, but Scandinavia is fast becoming a hub for brilliant foreign cinema, including The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series as well as 2008’s Let The Right One In. This latest offering from director Morten Tyldum is both harrowing and darkly funny, and promises much more from this under-represented nation in the world of film.
Based on the novel by Jo Nesbo, this thriller follows the story of Roger Brown; a high-flying businessman with huge debts to pay and a double life as an art thief. In order to lavish his wife with unnecessary gifts to maintain his status in the business world, Brown ‘headhunts’ rich collectors by interviewing them for a ‘job’ at his company in order to find out more about them and steal their prized possessions. Played by Askel Hennie, Brown is an intriguing character: hugely likeable and sympathetic despite his criminal activities and extra-marital affairs. Hennie is superb in this role, growing with the character throughout the film from his beginning as the cool, calm and collected headhunter for Pathfinders -whose career he insists is built on nothing more than ‘reputation’ -to his end as convict on the run.
This reputation comes into danger when Brown meets Clas Greve, an unreadable character whom Brown immediately suspects of sleeping with his wife, (the lovely Synnove Mocody Lund), yet fails to realise the whole truth: a complicated web of plots in which Greve is involved in order to save his business, HOTE. The story is complex, yet allows enough space for relationships to blossom and characters to fully develop, which is rare in such a fast-paced and action-loaded film.
Headhunters is a classic tale of the hunter becoming the hunted, and Hennie takes to both aspects of his role incredibly. The most significant and memorable scene (SPOILER) is a harrowing depiction in which Brown must shave his head in order to change his identity and escape Greve. Hennie takes us on a journey with him, and the viewer feels every wound his body sustains, and every trauma he endures in order to stay alive.
Lund is excellent in her role, keeping the audience guessing as to whether she is involved in Greve’s plot and with which man she is really in love, whilst Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is ominous yet charming as Brown’s nemesis. The policemen are also all brilliantly individual, but the unsung comic hero of the film has to be Eivind Sander’s Ove, Brown’s partner in crime, who in one ridiculous yet utterly believable kinky scene chases his prostitute lover around his cabin naked, with a loaded gun; a situation utterly befitting of his extrovert character.
Full of black comedy, thrilling action sequences, tense chase scenes and tender moments between Brown and his wife, this one is not to be missed, and I look forward to seeing more from this inspiring production team.