Headhunters is almost never boring and when you’re watching a thriller isn’t that the point?
Out of all the places in the world, one would not think of Scandinavia to be the prime export of thrillers in the world at the moment. But they are. Over the past 3-4 years high class films and television series has been churned out from the friendly people of Northern Europe. From Sweden’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, to Norway’s Trollhunter, Sweden’s (in cooperation with Denmark) TV series The Bridge, Rare Exports (the best Santa Clause movie released in years) from Finland, the Wallander TV series too, Scandinavia is on fire. Hell, even AMC’s The Killing is based off of a show originally out of Denmark. I’ll even remind you of the superb Norwegian film Insomnia that was released some years ago.
I don’t know what has prompted this recent output of top flight material and I honestly don’t care, most of it is searing entertainment that is sure to please most people willing to follow along. Now comes the most recent export from Norway, Headhunters, probably my favorite out of the bunch.
Headhunters is a film that is fanatically exciting. Its opening scenes suck you in with its playfulness. At times it’s very funny. Even while the film is gruesomely violent, the film is just plain fun. The director, Morten Tyldum, is very good at welcoming the audience into the story. Opening with a narration by the main character, Roger Brown, the story is set up within minutes. Roger Brown is played by Askel Hennie, an actor/director from Norway who seems quite popular in his native country.
Brown is a corporate headhunter. Seeking out candidates for big businesses is his day job. What he does on the side you wouldn’t exactly call legal. Brown moonlights as an art thief. What makes this interesting is that he often steals paintings from the candidates he interviews for the job. He does this he says because he needs to support his wife who lives for luxurious things, clothes, jewelry etc. He is in horrible debt and is barely surviving as it is His wife is about to open an art gallery which puts more pressure on him. Brown also has a woman on the side because he is convinced his wife loves him for his money and nothing more. I found it kind of ironic that a headhunter with loads of confidence in a board room has almost none with his own wife.
All of these opening scenes are inviting, they move along at a nice pace and almost feel like a 20 minute montage priming the audience for what lies ahead. The movie really kicks off at Brown’s wife’s art gallery opening where he runs into the film’s villain. Clas Greve, who is cheerfully diabolical in his ways, is played by the great Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. You’ll recognize him from the HBO series Game of Thrones. A good thriller is only as good as its villain and Headhunters has one hell of a villain. Waldau is fantastic as Greve, a man who is more than meets the eye. He arrives with an aura of mystery when he meets Brown.
We discover that Greve used to work for a major military corporation in the Netherlands and just recently stepped down. Greve also used to be a black ops mercenary who was a specialist at tracking down people. Brown wants to sign him to a rival military firm in Norway. Once Brown finds out that Greve has an extremely rare painting worth tens of millions of dollars he immediately hatches a plan to steal it. But does Clas know more than he is letting on?
Brown goes to Greve’s apartment to steal the painting only to find his wife’s cellphone lying next to the bed. Headhunters then throws down the gamut. Not knowing who to trust, Brown is thrown into complete paranoia and the film reveals its ugly head, thrusting itself into a frenetic chase across Norway. Twisting and turning at every moment, Brown is in completely over his head.
The cat and mouse game that gets played between Brown and his tormentor Greve gets quite brutal at times. Brown is forced to kill a dog in one scene and in another has to hide in the worst part of an outhouse. Greve is relentless in his chase. One of the best scenes involves a police car and a semi rig in the high mountains. Let’s just say it doesn’t end well for a few people.
Headhunters is almost unbelievable at times. In one scene Brown is forced to play dead and Greve pretty much looks at him and decides he is dead. You’d think a man of his past would know to check for a pulse or put one last bullet in his head, but he doesn’t. But honestly who really cares when the film is this much fun? The cast has fun with the material, the plot is twisty and a lot of fun to watch unfold and Tyldum’s direction is flashy enough to keep you guessing. Headhunters is almost never boring and when you’re watching a thriller isn’t that the point?