The Establishing Shot: Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters Review – HEADHUNTERS IS IN MY TOP 3 FILMS OF 2012 SO FAR

Posted by Craig Grobler on Google+ On Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Jo Nesbo HeadhuntersThis Friday sees the release of Jo Nesbo’s darkly delicious Headhunters and whilst I may have been fairly quiet about it I have already had the pleasure of seeing Headhunters twice. Once to watch it and the second time to share this gem with my wife - who enjoys clever crime stories.

I loved Headhunters and it is easy to see why it has been winning over audiences and prompted Mark Wahlberg to say Headhunters is the best film he's seen in a long time and that he’d love to be part of the Hollywood remake - it is an original (oh the irony) and absolutely delicious slice of black humour that whilst not taking itself too seriously, is seriously suspenseful. It has all the hallmarks (& some of the weaknesses) of a timeless cult classic that compels you to keep your eyes on the screen in disbelief as it takes you on an unpredictable joy ride. It is worth noting that although I call Headhunters a Cult film – which may conjure certain connotations, amongst them: serving a niche audience, which I don’t think is entirely the case with Headhunters as it is an intricate crime film that should entertain any adult audience.

You can’t travel in London with out seeing either a Headhunters poster or an advert for Jo Nesbo’s books but in all fairness when I went along to see Headhunters I wasn't familiar with either. My interest was however piqued as Jo Nesbo the author of Headhunters is a Norwegian crime writer with a string of successful book hits, who was also a rock star and a stock broker. Coming across as a real life Buckaroo Banzai I was keen to see more of the world of Jo Nesbo and the big screen adaptation of his Headhunters.

Video: The Establishing Shot: Headhunters Official UK trailer in English

The charismatic Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), a successful corporate headhunter by day and prolific art thief by night, is lured into a dangerous game of cat and mouse when he goes after the biggest heist of his life.

Jo Nesbo's Headhunters is the best-selling author's first novel to be adapted for film.Directed by Morten Tyldum (What Happened To Monday) and produced by Yellow Bird, the production company behind the phenomenally successful Millennium trilogy and Wallander, Headhunters also stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game Of Thrones, Mama) and Synnove Macody Lund.

I fear I say too much in this piece and I'm trying not to give too much away as much of the magic of Headhunters are the marvellous twists and turns that the very capable Morten Tyldum leads you down. In many regards Headhunters plays out like a classic triangle story with devious twists, devices and interesting characters that never quite let you get a handle on things or the direction it might go in next.

In Headhunters Director Morten Tyldum introduces us to Roger Brown, wonderfully played by Aksel Hennie who switches between charismatic professional to knife wielding desperado in seconds. Roger is a successful high profile corporate recruitment agent who is at the top of his game. For all for all intents and purposes his character plays on the stereotypical view we have of Nordic people - He lives in a steel & glass designer home & surrounds himself with white, clinical designer goods and people. Including his tall, blonde and beautiful wife Diana Brown, an art gallery owner played by even more beautiful in real life Synnøve Macody Lund.

Aksel Hennie Headhunters
Image: Headhunters Aksel Hennie as Roger Brown

But underneath the shiny Ikea veneer of Roger’s world there is an underworld, one in which Roger Brown sneaks around as a fairly despicable character fraught with insecurities and hanging onto his successful lifestyle (and wife) by his finger nails, by moonlighting as an art thief. Roger reveals himself to not only be a master of corporate psychology but a highly proficient thief dealing in underhanded activities with both skill and aplomb.

So on one side of the triangle we have Roger Brown adept at reading people and situations with genius like capability, who is also very resourceful.
Before I continue – as someone I was discussing Headhunters with queried - a Norwegian called Roger Brown? Rest assured I investigated this further in discussion with lead actor Aksel Hennie at the Jameson Cult Film screening of Headhunters and I have answers which can be found here!
In the middle of the triangle we have Diana Brown, Roger’s gorgeous wife and as Roger points out Diana is accustomed to, and expects certain things without effort. Not only is Diana at the crux of Roger’s motivations and the heart of his insecurities but plays pivotal role in events as they roll out in the story.

Synnve Macody Lund Headhunters
Image: Headhunters Synnove Macody Lund as Diana Brown

Bridging us to the authorities closing in on Roger and the third side of the triangle - Clas Greve played by none other than Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Jaime Lannister of Game of Thrones and who can also currently be seen in the marvellous Western Blackthorn.

Clas Greve is an ex mercenary who stops at nothing to get his man. So on the other side of the triangle we have an ex Special Forces military man with a murky but blood stained military background.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Headhunters
Image: Headhunters  Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Clas Greve 

As well as the twisted narrative, some of the magic of Headhunters is the engaging characters - in a similar way that Guy Ritchie extrapolates characteristics that allow his performers to hang personality traits on, Director Morten Tyldum keeps the characters fresh and very personable with out overplaying their hands. It really helps that the cast all deliver great performances. Particularly Eivind Sander as Ove Kjikerud one of Roger's accomplices, he steals almost every scene he is in. But the bulk of the heavy lifting comes down to the triangle and their interplay; Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

Headhunters Poster
Image: Jo Nesbo's Headhunters Poster

Especially the two opposing forces with their contrasting characters - Roger is short, fraught with insecurities but a polished corporate animal.

Whilst Clas is tall, good looking and despite corporate success - blunt and a little rough around the edges. A veteran of the good fight specialising in outdoor survival particularly in inhospitable regions often against military trained terrorists. He will stop at nothing to get his man.

So the scene is set for a showdown. What follows is an hour and 40 minutes half of twisty turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat as you second guess every move, whilst grimacing at the gore, cringing at some genuinely gross scenarios and laughing out loud at some hilarious tension deflating humour. Like me you may find yourself laughing & cringing at the same time.

Earlier on I said that Headhunters has all the strengths and weaknesses of a classic Cult film – I felt some of the narrative devices were a little frustrating and some relationship dynamics are glossed over in favour of moving the story along. But rather than a failing in the film, as I’m sure in the book I’m sure the rationale in  is exposed - I think it comes down to cultural nuances that don’t translate. But like all good Cult films this makes Headhunters even more unhinged and all the better for it as it is a 90 minute all out slick & bloody fun ride.

Headhunters release date: 6 April, 2012

For more info head over to:

Headhunters (Hodejegerne)
An accomplished headhunter risks everything to obtain a valuable painting owned by a former mercenary.

Director: Morten Tyldum
Writers: Lars Gudmestad, Ulf Ryberg and Jo Nesbø
Stars: Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau



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