Headhunters - An Overwhelming Edgy Thriller

                         In the modern cinema, there are two kinds of thrillers : the one with shaky cameras that tap into your responses and make you sick with fear, and the Hitchcockian ones that plays with you, that give you the space and time to laugh with depraved delight at your own helplessness. Based on the novel by celebrated crime writer Jo Nesbø, the Norwegian 'Headhunters,' is the second kind. It tells what happens, when a amoral thief meets a very bad guy, like a nasty, psychopathic, armed one. 

                      Headhunters is a convoluted and twisting take on the potentially lethal outcomes of male ego and insecurity, which find their greatest embodiment in capitalism at its most aggressive. And i am warning you, this movie is a mad stuff - dirty, fast, mean and filled with bloody twists.

        Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a top-level corporate recruiter—a headhunter—who has a second job, as an art thief. Roger's interpersonal and economic ambitions are driven primarily by his perceived need to compensate for his physically short stature (which is about 5-foot-5). His wife, Diana (Synnove Macody Lund) is gorgeous, blond, tall, and successful, so naturally Roger worries incessantly that he will lose her to a more deserving man. What he  steals, are expensive paintings, which he fences to pay for his unsustainable lifestyle, including the jewelry he showers upon beautiful Diana.

                 Dianna is opening her own art gallery, and there she meets Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, from "Game of Thrones"), a recently retired, wealthy businessman.  Greve turns out to own an $100 million worth Paul Rubens painting that no one has seen since World War II. Roger asks him to be interviewed for a potential job in his company, and is joyous when he learns that Clas is in possession of a genuine Rubens painting. One problem, though, is that Greve was formerly a military expert who specialized in tracking down and killing bad guys. 

                Roger isn't afraid of what Greve was, and breaks into his apartment steals the painting, and finds evidence that Greve is having an affair with Diana. At which point he tries to call-off the job he had been setting up for Greve. And Clas Greve sets out on a manhunt for Roger. Is it because of the painting or for any other reason? To describe too much more of the plot risks ruining some of the film’s best pleasures.  

                 Acting is flawless as the suspense slyly increasingly takes hold of you at every turn. Hennie is excellent as Roger, going from seemingly smug to suspicious to scared witless in a relatively short time, and making the leaps believable.  Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is fiercely focused as Clas Greve. His character is as lethal as he is suave. Writers Lars Gudmestad and Ulf Ryberg freshen up familiar caper and thriller tropes. Director Tyldum  has mastered the trick of piling on bad luck, upping the ante of harrowing violence until the overkill becomes perversely comic. Along with the shock violence, the tone here is distinctly black humor. When you're sure things can't get worse, they get 10 times worse. From the viewpoint of craftsmanship, the most impressive development is the director's gift for negotiating changes of tone with perfect aplomb.

                The most amazing pleasure in Headhunters is the development of Roger, who at the beginning of the film could be generously called a blackguard.  Even though we recognize that his smug, patronizing outer persona is masking a sense of male insecurity, Roger’s behavior is nonetheless frequently indefensible, particularly the affair he is carrying on with a woman named Lotte (Julie Olgaard). The insincere and hypocritical nature of the fact is that he is having affair with someone else while constantly worrying that his wife will leave him for a “better” man. And, Roger tries to casts her off as soon as she wants some part of him outside of the bedroom. 

                Even so, as the film progresses and Roger runs for his life, abiding all manner of physical hardship in the process, he becomes more and more sympathetic—a pathetic man whose economic and social armor has been violently stripped away, leaving him, at one point, literally naked with his head shaved out of a desperate attempt to elude his killer.  Roger is so over-matched that we actually start to root for him to succeed.

             "Headhunters" is funny, smart, scary and surprising. It is an undeniably bloody and strange affair which is likely to be remade by Hollywood, and will be invariably sanitized or smoothed out. This is the version you might want to see, before it becomes a cliched Hollywood thriller.


Headhunters - IMDb                                                                                                                                                              Rated R for bloody violence including some grisly images, strong sexual content and nudity


Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

One of the best thrillers of the recent past. It keep me hooked till the last minute. Another movie you should definitely check out is 'Tell No One'. Great review!

Lazy Pineapple said...

I am yet to see this movie..now am definitely tempted after reading your review. I too am quite passionate about movies but reveiw only a few on my blog.I :)am following you now

Meoww said...

"This is the version you might want to see, before it becomes a cliched Hollywood thriller. " Good one!

i am tempted to see this after this review... How do you see all these foreign movies anyway?

Unknown said...

It never amazes me to see you reviews, Five stars to you :)

Raghav said...

I've been wanting to see the film for quite some time. Need to watch it now.

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Arun Kumar said...

@Haricharan, Thank you. The French movie, "Tell No One"? I have seen it. Wonderful mystery thriller.

@Vinita, Thanks for the comment and for following. Keep visiting.

@Meoww, Thanks for the comment. Since movies are a passion, i make time to watch these foreign movies.

Arun Kumar said...

@Ghazala, Thanks for the comment. Keep visiting.

@Raghav, It's a must watch for those who like thrillers.

@Indian jobs guide, Thank you. Keep visiting.

HR said...

Your review on this movie is an outstanding. Good work.

Akshy said...

Superb recommendation:). There are only a few movies that i am not aware of,and this happens to be one of them:).Good find and thanks for recommending:).Will watch it soon.