'Headhunters': Not quite high art, but thoroughly entertaining
"Headhunters," a crime thriller about an art thief, directed by Morten Tyldum and starring Aksel Hennie and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, isn't a pretty film, says Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald, but it's thoroughly entertaining "in a blood-soaked way."
Seattle Times movie critic
'Headhunters,' with Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Synnøve Macody Lund, Eivind Sander. Directed by Morten Tyldum, from a screenplay by Ulf Ryberg and Lars Gudmestad, based on the novel by Jo Nesbø. 100 minutes. In Norwegian with English subtitles. Rated R for bloody violence including some grisly images, strong sexual content and nudity. Varsity.
Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a headhunter — Norway's most successful recruiter for Fortune 500 companies, in fact. He's a small but confident man, the sort who seems almost too well-groomed (you can practically see the tasteful cologne wafting from him). Away from work, he lives in an elegant contemporary home with his very blond and very beautiful wife, Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund, making a striking film debut), whom he describes as the type who's "used to being loved." In his spare time, Roger's an art thief — and is, quite possibly, the best in Norway in that field as well.
This is the irresistible premise of "Headhunters," based on a best-selling novel by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø (who also writes the Harry Hole crime novels), and director Morten Tyldum has transformed it into a snappy, frequently bloody and only occasionally over-the-top thriller. Roger — who's financially overextended, thanks to Diana's expensive taste — meets the owner (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, of "Game of Thrones") of a rare and valuable masterwork and makes his usual elaborate preparations to lift it.
But things, even in the mysterious world of high-end Norwegian art thievery, aren't quite what they seem, and soon Roger's light, white, impeccably ordered world has become one of blood, darkness, bullets and filth. (At one point, he's reduced to hiding in a rural outhouse — under the seat.) Pursued by an assortment of bad guys, not to mention a sort of Tweedledum and Tweedledee cop duo, Roger must somehow survive with his own head intact, and you can't help cheering him on as he seems to develop nearly superhuman powers.
"Headhunters" isn't a pretty film, and it doesn't always entirely make sense, but it races along like a man chased by killers. It's thoroughly entertaining in its blood-soaked way, with Roger emerging as a lizardy but likable hero.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org