What would you do to keep your home, your woman, and your playboy lifestyle? Would you cheat? Steal? Kill? Immerse yourself in the turd pit of an outhouse? In the film version of Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters, directed by Morten Tyldum, the answers to these pseudo-philosophical dilemmas come to light in an action thriller that will keep you fixated on the screen, and not just because you have to read subtitles from Norway.
In Headhunters, Roger Brown (played by Aksel Hennie) has it all: a beautiful house to live in; a stunning wife, Diana (played by Synnøve Macody Lund) who has no problem with surprise sex in the shower; nice clothes, a nice car, and an equally nice mistress that he visits once in a while.
The problem is, he can’t cover this playboy lifestyle on his salary as a corporate headhunter, so he must moonlight as a cat burglar, stealing expensive works of art in order to keep this lifestyle and, because of a rather large Napoleon complex, the finances he believes he needs to keep his wife happy and, therefore, keep his wife.
Most of the time Roger steals these paintings from his clients, with the help of his gun-crazy, prostitute-loving security friend, Ove Kjikerud, until Diana introduces him to Clas Greve (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays the Game of Thrones character your girlfriend thinks about while you’re making out), a corporate executive with a highly valuable painting and a disturbing past.What follows is a series of accidents, misinterpretations, and gun-toting action that never fails to entertain.
Headhunters comes with a complicated storyline that I can’t give its due, mainly because it would spoil the movie for anyone reading. What I can say is that you need to pay attention. This isn’t the Norwegian version of the Bourne series. This is a fantastic anti-hero film that has you rooting for the bad guy, or at least the “not-the-worst” guy. This is a movie that uses, action, sex, and humor to both ground and build the movie until you get to that “Ah-ha!” moment that makes the movie even more interesting. It also makes the audience feel more intelligent for picking up on it right away, unlike those David Lynch movies that you may love to dissect and interpret in a million different ways but are never sure of.
One of the greatest things about Headhunters is how the film incorporates action into such a thinking-man’s film. The satire involved in the survival of Roger Brown as he must destroy his own self-image in order to stay alive is a brilliant theme throughout the whole movie, but the activity on the screen never has to pause to make sure the audience understands that. While it may be a movie that has to be seen a second time, mainly due to subtitles, the film keeps you invested enough in the story and characters so that you stay alert anyway.
The cinematography of the film was extremely well done. Whether it is the adrenaline rush of knowing a car will be crushed by an eighteen-wheeler, the light streaming through a window, or the perceived stench of feces that makes you want to yell at the character to take a damn shower, the movie is shot to perfectly meld reality with picture-perfect clarity, which helps suck an audience into the story.
There was only one thing that seemed problematic, besides the lack of nudity by Synnøve Macody Lund(who did such a great job acting that I really can’t complain that much). In the climax of the film, there seemed to be some confusion with the dialogue between Roger and Clas. I don’t know if it was a language problem that didn’t interpret well, and it didn’t kill the movie, but it did take me out of the film for a brief moment to wonder what the hell just happened. It’s even more apparent since I was immersed in the film for so long that any hiccup can feel overbearing. Luckily, the film grabbed me by the throat and pulled me back in right away, so it wasn’t the end of the world.
Manly Grades: (out of 5)
Action: 4 out of 5 kicks to the face
Humor: 4 out of 5 references to Benny Hill
Sexiness: 4 out of 5 pictures of Synnøve Macody Lund naked
Manliness: 5 out of 5 Chuck Norris references
Overall, I give Headhunters 4 out of 5 stolen paintings.
Be sure to check out Patrick’s Manly Movie Review of Goon!
Patrick Emmel is a movie guy who once watched A History of Violence three times in a row to make sure “that was it”. You can see more of his work at www.theineptowl.com or heckle him on Twitter @Patrick_AE.