There are a lot of excellent thrillers coming out of Scandinavia at the moment, whether its Stieg Larrson’s Millennium Trilogy
and its film adaptations or the Danish series The Killing
being a hit on television. Jo Nesbø is a respected crime novelist in his native Norway and his books are international best sellers. His stand-alone novel Headhunters
has been given a cinematic treatment that has just arrived on DVD and Blu-ray. A Hollywood remake is already in the works.
Harry Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a corporate headhunter and a talented art thief. He has a beautiful wife, Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund), but he lives way beyond his means and is on the edge of bankruptcy. In a chance meeting ,Harry is introduced to Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones
fame), a successful electronics businessman and former NATO solider, the perfect candidate to become a senior manager of a company he has the contract for. Sweetening the deal, Greve has a lost Peter Rubens masterpiece that could solve Harry's money problems, but he has crossed the wrong man Greve hunts him down with more determination than The Terminator.
Director Morten Tyldum delivers a very entertaining thriller filled with intense moments and action sequences when required. It even has a surprisingly humorous and cheeky tone at times. Like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, it features an ordinary man who is thrown into an extraordinary situation, and Tyldum gives this proven formula some extra energy. Headhunters
also shares some plot elements with No Country For Old Men
and Enemy of the State
. At a brisk 100 minutes, it's fast-paced and wastes not a single frame.
Harry starts off as a real scumbag, but because of the strength of the script, the direction and Hennie's excellent performance, we can slowly warm to him and his plight. Hennie has range as an actor; you can believe he is a man with no training and skill who must take on a Special Forces soldier. Coster-Waldau shows real cunning and menace as he hunts Harry with ferocity. Eivind Sander as Harry’s mole in the security company, Ove, was a very funny creation and really deserves a comedy spin-off of some sort.
If it was not for the art theft at the very beginning, Headhunters
starts as a quirky Euro film, but Tyldum blends the different tones to great effect, with neither the humor nor the brutal moments distracting from each other. There are some outlandish ideas, but it's not hard to suspend disbelief because it's so entertaining.
Even with the strong pacing, there are a some small bridging scenes that have gone missing that will leave audiences with a few minor questions. It would have added a minute at most to the running time and given Headhunters
just an extra boost in quality.
This well-thought out, intelligent thriller really proves it is a golden age for the Scandinavian crime genre.