Published Sep 07, 2011At first, seriously nasty Norwegian action thriller Headhunters comes off as yet another insipid heist movie glamorizing the male fantasy of living above the law as a free spirit, somehow better and more deserving than everyone else. It tracks art thief and corporate head-hunter Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) through a series of minor thefts, listing rules for survival via voiceover while elaborating on the need to impress Amazonian wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) with material goods.
But this is all just plot setup for a far more compelling, pulse-pounding film that comes along when Roger realizes that Dutch CEO Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) isn't just going to roll over and take his crap the way everyone else does.
Amidst clever plotting that ultimately involves every seemingly incidental scene throughout, this darkly humoured karmic admonition parable exploits the visceral, maintaining an absurdly propulsive tone and pace for what turns out to be an hour-long chase sequence. Whether fighting dogs, hiding in an outhouse full of faeces or dodging speeding Mack trucks, Roger's non-stop flee from peril is often surprising, disgusting and hilarious.
It's rare that a director can manage a film of this nature — tempering a rapid pace and excess nastiness with enough restraint to keep things from being overly affected and pretentiously stylized — even without considering the many surprises and seemingly throwaway scenes of importance layered about the periphery. Morten Tyldum manages to create both emotional tension and, to a lesser degree, cerebral intrigue, crafting a truly thrilling and engrossing piece of entertainment.
Even if the actual ending is a little pat and disappointing, everything leading up to it more than compensates. Anyone able to handle a bit of gore and some exceedingly abject morality should be able to appreciate this tightly assembled foreign gem. (Alliance)