Sunday, 29 April 2012

Headhunters


****

Headhunters is yet another quality Scandinavian crime export. Not as darkly serious as the likes of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this has something a little wittier to say. The tension (of which there is a lot) is consistently underpinned by humour. This doesn’t detract from the thriller element but actually adds to it.

Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a successful headhunter. Standing at 1.68 metres tall (5’6”) he has a lot to prove. You might say he has a large chip on his shoulder. He is also living beyond his means to keep his (tall) trophy wife happy. To support their expensive lifestyle he is also an art thief, stealing valuable paintings from people’s homes. That is until he messes with the wrong guy.

Developed from a book by popular Norwegian author Jo Nesbo this is a first class adaptation to screen. Director Morten Tyldum has delivered a polished piece of work. It is constantly surprising, always intelligent and wrapped in a very attractive package. In this noir-ish setting nobody is completely without sin and the focus of the story is on someone who’s not entirely likeable. I was still rooting for this anti-hero, though, because he experiences such pain and humiliation. And Hennie, who is barely offscreen, weaves a certain magic by making the smarmy, cocksure Roger sympathetic. Hopelessly out of his depth, he is plunged into a dangerous world. We see the violence through his eyes – as unpredictable and often surreal. These weird depictions of aggression reminded me very much of the Coen brothers, and that’s never a bad thing. (Hennie’s similarity to Steve Buscemi may have added to this.) The director realistically captures the scrappy nature of violence – balletic this is not. It’s also pretty strong for the UK’s 15 Certificate. (Or perhaps I’m just getting soft in my old age.)

Summit Entertainment purchased the rights to produce an American remake, even before its initial release. But please don’t wait for that - check out what is almost certain to be “the superior original”.


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