Review by Victoria Large
Posted on 11 May 2012
Source 35mm print
Categories The 2012 Independent Film Festival Boston
Headhunters, the Norwegian thriller from director Morten Tyldum that screened at IFFB shortly before the start of its Boston theatrical run, doesn’t play even a little bit nice, and sensitive moviegoers would probably be wise to give it a pass. That being said, this sometimes-shocking crime caper is likely to find an appreciative audience among crime movie fans looking for a new thrill.
It begins like a heist picture. We meet Roger Brown, a corporate headhunter who moonlights as a masterful art thief. Roger (played by Aksel Hennie, who bears a striking resemblance to Steve Buscemi) harbors deep insecurities about his height, his looks, and his ability to please his beautiful wife Diana (never mind the fact that he’s cheating on her). He steals mainly so he can afford to buy her fancy things. He thinks he’s found his next big score when he meets Clas Greve, an intimidating, handsome Dane who happens to own an extraordinarily valuable painting. The twist is that Clas is also an expert tracker, and once the game is afoot, Roger finds himself playing an antic game of cat-and-mouse with Clas.
The chase is clearly the film’s centerpiece, and that’s where Tyldum seems to invest most of his energy and twisted creativity. The director is great at supplying jump-in-your-seat and cover-your-eyes moments, with one scatological sequence that brazenly outdoes anything Danny Boyle has dreamed up so far. (There’s also an instance of simulated animal cruelty that will be too much for many.) It’s wild stuff, and Roger’s journey from carefully coiffed businessman to a desperate and (justifiably) paranoid fugitive throws one for a bit of a loop. Indeed, it’s clear that Tyldum is looking to give us a rollercoaster ride here, and the large, late night audience at IFFB laughed and groaned along with Headhunters, twigging to its playful (if somewhat sadistic) tone. (If there must be an American remake, let’s put Sam Raimi on it.)
Perhaps it’s easier to laugh at Roger’s misfortunes because he’s so misguided and amoral in the first place. While more of us are likely to identify with Roger’s insecurity than Clas’ chiseled good looks and carefully honed hunting skills, it’s tough to argue that Roger fully earns our sympathies—on the inside, he has the same mercenary instincts as Clas, and he often doesn’t prove to be much of a husband or a friend. Tyldum capitalizes on these less-than-heroic qualities by putting Roger through the wringer.
It’s true that the film never approaches the pathos of, say, the Coen brothers’ Fargo, in which Jerry Lundegaard’s speedily unraveling plans carry with them a sobering dash of reality and even banality. Headhunters, adapted from a novel by Jo Nesbø, will win most of its fans with its high style and audacious setpieces. Still, it makes for a worthy diversion to take in—perhaps through splayed fingers.
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