“All I inherited is bad genes,” Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) tells us, early on. Perhaps that explains the exec's need to compensate by collecting some of the finest things in life, and to surround himself with them, basking in their beauty. Whether he’s snatching up the finest talents as a top-tier corporate headhunter, moonlighting as an art thief of top-tier works, or wooing wondrous women, Roger Brown's DNA is hardly in the way. That is, until he becomes the prime suspect in a bizarre murder case.
While Brown is as calculating, but not as cold as, Bateman or Ripley, there are nuances in the character — cinematically, at least — which are reminiscent of American Psycho and Ripley's Game. More than anything, though, he seems like a Nordic defector from Miller's Crossing, Burn After Reading or an as-yet unmade Coen Bros. reimagining of North By Northwest. I don't know enough about the chicken / egg dynamic here to say whether it's the source novel by Jo Nesbø or the directing talents of Morten Tyldum that makes Headhunters so damn much fun… but whichever: I was rapt from start to finish.
The movie starts (somewhat reminiscent of Fight Club) with a voiced-over tour of his stark, modernist designer digs (as well as the outlining of certain rules) then flows into a day in the life of Brown… one which goes horribly wrong in this blackest of black comedies, as one deadly domino falls and leads to the next Rubixian conundrum. To say too much about this taut, and often quite gory, shocking and surprising twisty mystery would spoil the freezer-burn fun… but, I do have a review to write.
The trouble begins when Brown's goddess-like wife Diana (Synnove Macody Lund) introduces him to suave, wealthy art collector and alpha-male, Clas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Brown covets Clas's rare Rubens painting and, under the guise of poaching him for a high powered job, he worms his way into the man's good graces. Or… maybe those graces aren't as good as Brown thinks, and maybe this isn't just another heist. Joining the fray along the way are predators and pawns, among them Brown's disgruntled ex-lover Lotte (Julie Olgaard), his sex-starved sidekick Ove (Eivand Sander), and Sperre (Reidar Sorensen), the relentless police detective who won't cut Brown a break, thereby forcing him deeper and deeper into the quicksand.
Cinematography by John Andreas Andersen (who also did Babycall, the recent horror-thriller starring Noomi Rapace) is slick and cool, yet intimate and immediate. The images are well-served by sharp and dynamic, but not frenetic or gimmicky, editing by Vidar Flataukan. The often gasp-inducing, yet believable gore makeups by Jim Udenberg and Rick Marr must be acknowledged as well.
Headhunters is one of those wowzer Scandinavian flicks getting a cursory limited release before it's fast-tracked to the American remake factory. (Cases in point: Let The Right One In, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).
Headhunters is out on April 27, 2012. Highly recommended!
American Release Trailer
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson