VOD film review: Headhunters
Ivan Radford | On 14, Aug 2014
Director: Morten Tyldum
Cast: Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Synnøve Macody Lund
Come to Sweden. There are vampires, racists and serial killers. And Kenneth Branagh. That’s the message British audiences tend to get from most Scandinavian fiction. But by the same token, Norway looks like an equally promising place to visit. There are monsters (Troll Hunter), eccentric locals (Kong Curling) and, judging by this film version of Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters, some very ambitious art thieves.
Roger Brown (Hennie) is a recruitment expert. A headhunter. By day, he spoils his wife and splashes about cash like a rich, tall person. By night, he steals paintings to pay for it all and worries about being only 5′ 6″. Then, along comes Clas Greve (Game of Throne’s Coster-Waldau). A former army man with the looks of Jaime Lannister and the brains of Tywin, he’s the perfect fit for the CEO position Roger’s trying to fill – not least because he’s got a long-lost Rubens hanging in his flat.
Of course, things don’t pan out that way. One thing leads to another, and soon Roger is up to his neck in it. Literally. Hiding in a remote outhouse, submerged in poo and breathing through a tube, Roger’s head is now the thing being hunted. And so he runs for his life as Clas tries to kill him with his perfectly formed sideburns. Or a gun. Whichever’s easier.
You can tell from the slick opening credits (cool voice-over, flashy heist montage) that Headhunters is either going to be cheesy or amazing – and Nesbo’s mildly silly story and director Morten Tyldum’s breakneck pacing make for an entertaining match. Everything whizzes by with a smooth finish, never waiting for you to catch up. People talk about micro-transmitters and the importance of reputation, while tractors get stolen and bodies are dumped in lakes.
By the end of the first act, Headhunters is ridiculous. By the closing credits, it’s beyond absurd. Yet while the filmmakers are clearly having fun, the cast play things admirably straight, stretching logic just enough to keep things believable. Hennie is calm and ruthless as the diminutive lead, while Lund’s concerned wife adds a large dollop of tension, and it’s great to see Nikolaj Coster-Waldau take some take time out from playing Jaime.
When you think about the film several days later, little of it makes logical sense. But somewhere along the line, you stop caring. Only after the 100 darkly funny minutes are up do you realise that you’ve already gone online and booked a flight to Norway. After all, if Nesbo’s Headhunters is anything to go by, you’ll have one heck of a trip.