MPAA Rating: R
Director: Morten Tyldum
FilmPulse Score: 7.5/10
Headhunters is the first in what I suspect will be a slew of Jo Nesbø film adaptations in the coming years and Morten Tyldum’s cinematic rendering offers suspense, action and most notably intelligence, sometimes rare in the action-thriller genre. The film, based on the Edgar Award nominated Norwegian author’s 2008 novel Hodejegerne (Headhunters), follows a highly successful corporate headhunter, who sidelines as an art thief, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) as he tries to obtain an extremely rare and valuable Peter Paul Rubens painting, lost since World War II, from former elite solider Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
Roger Brown has a borderline Napoleon complex that he is well aware of judging by the numerous times he mentions his height, 1.68m. The fact that his wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) is much taller than him and supposedly prefers a certain luxurious lifestyle, forces him, in his mind, to steal and sell valuable art pieces in order to buy his wife expensive gifts and a support their lavish lifestyle. The viewer quickly learns that all Diana wants in her life is a child, something Roger is hesitant to consider.
Diana has recently opened a new art gallery in Oslo and it is here that Roger meets, not only the perfect target for his current corporate recruitment in Clas Greve, but also the answers to his financial woes when Clas mentions to Diana that he possesses a long-thought to be lost Reubens painting. Roger sets out to break into Clas’s apartment with the help of his sleazy criminal partner Ove (Eivind Sander), but Roger finds a lot more than the painting and soon finds out that Clas is a headhunter in his own way.
Ove’s job is to disable security systems so Roger can infiltrate the building and obtain the targeted art pieces and Ove is also responsible for selling the stolen property. When Ove tries to retrieve the stolen Reubens from Roger’s car things goes awry and Roger is suddenly thrust into a brutal game of cat and mouse. And by brutal, I mean Tyldum doesn’t shy away from capturing the violence, neither the present violence nor the effects of said violence. In one scene, Tyldum presents what is probably the most uncomfortable and immensely painful head shaving sequence captured on film. The story also contains what has to be one of the greatest tests of trust and if you were to pass this test you should be forgiven for any and all past transgressions.
Though the film does suffer from plotholes, as do most films in the thriller genre, they don’t seem to be as egregious as others of its ilk. Aksel Hennie gives a great performance as the insecure art thief and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau does equally well as the ruthless hunter. Hollywood may have just found their newest fountain of secondhand ideas in ‘Scandi-crime’ adaptations, akin to the Japanese horror remakes of the early to mid 2000s, but Headhunters is a must-see, a tremendous and enjoyable addition to the action-thriller genre.