Headhunters (2011), the new Norwegian thriller based on the best selling crime novel by author Jo Nesbo is, like its central protagonist Roger Brown (played by Aksel Hennie), sleek and sharp. Fortunately, unlike Roger who is not all he seems, the film also lives up to what its advertising material promises, being violent, clever and beautiful to watch with a cold, northern European chill.
Roger Brown (Hennie) is part of the top brass at a large corporate headhunting firm. Outside of work his life seems perfect. A home which looks like its stepped out of World of Interiors magazine, a wardrobe of stylish suits and a wife called Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) who could pass as a supermodel. Unfortunately Diana also has the tastes of a supermodel, and well paid though Roger’s job is it wont finance the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. As a result Roger has a secret and lucrative sideline as an art thief, stealing valuable pieces from the homes of his employer’s unsuspecting clients. Despite living a life on the edge Roger seems to have everything ticking along nicely.
Then one day a client appears in his office who Roger realises could provide the opportunity for a very valuable heist which would, if he could pull it off, provide the means to put his double life behind him and settle down for good. But Roger didn’t count on the fact that he isn’t the only double-crosser out there, and soon finds out he may have bitten off more than he can chew.
Headhunters is a slick film. From the originality of a story which, despite an art thief premise which has been seen before, still has enough about-turns to appear fresh throughout, to its look – everything and everyone is so glacially pristine that you fear you’d get frostbite if you dared touch them – the whole production has a surreal otherworldliness that draws the viewer in, making you want to be a part of it. Even when Roger finds himself fighting for life in a series of bizarre and deadly twists of fate as his painstakingly constructed facade begins to crumble you can’t help but be attracted by the surroundings and lifestyle of the array of disparate characters who cross his path.
It is also this said fight for life – that kicks in after a measured build-up which explains why Roger finds himself pushed to such increasingly desperate measures to maintain the outward appearance he has worked so had to build up – which makes the film such fun. The increasingly bloody and violent though often humorous (at one point involving a dog and a forklift truck – I’ll say no more) extremes Roger is pushed too, make for a film which seldom lets you retreat from the edge of your seat.
Roger is the archetypal anti-hero – you can’t help rooting for him despite his often being as low-down as the scum he’s fighting. That the reasoning behind his crimes arise from his own confused sense of self-worth and inadequacy only make you feel for him even more.
There are worrying rumours afoot that Hollywood, that land of unoriginality, have already snapped up the rights to remake Headhunters. My advice is to see the original and leave it at that as it will be hard, if not impossible, to better.