Movie Review: Headhunters


Swift, amoral and nicely unpredictable, a bloodier Norwegian variation on film noir from the '40s, the thriller"Headhunters"comes from a 2008 novel by Jo Nesbo. The film already has been optioned for an English-language remake. Its protagonist, a sharklike corporate headhunter of modest physical stature, is a Napoleonic complex Nordic-style.

He's played by Aksel Hennie, who has wonderful presence and an air of monumental self-satisfaction as well as a faint resemblance to Christopher Walken, but a Walken who has taken pristine care of himself.

Roger swans through life accompanied by a stunning (and conspicuously tall) Norwegian wife, a needy mistress, a side business in art theft and a plotline that makes this cool, cool cat suffer for his sins.

The action of "Headhunters" grows progressively grislier, and often the humiliations aren't merely painful, they're disgusting. At one point our man Roger is forced to hide in a latrine, all the way in it,"Slumdog Millionaire"-style.

When we get the remake in a year or two, I hope it retains the edge and compact energy of director Morten Tyldum's movie. When Roger's gallery-owner wife, played by former model Synnove Macody Lund, introduces her husband to the formidably charismatic Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, star of "Game of Thrones"), Roger's psychological security system sounds an alarm. Here is someone my wife might find attractive, he fears.

Roger also considers Clas to be prime CEO material, and the potential interloper's background in private security makes him an interesting headhunting prospect. Also, Clas owns a Rubens that might be worth stealing.

From this premise, "Headhunters" is off and running. The violence is jarringly graphic, though more sparing incident to incident than many an American counterpart.

Compressed for the screen, Nesbo's narrative relies heavily on convenience and coincidence. But it's a measure of the film's relative success, I think, that one such convenience involving a surveillance camera is established early on and then forgotten, at least long enough to pay off when needed near the end.

'Headhunters' -- 3 stars

MPAA rating: R (for bloody violence including some grisly images, strong sexual content and nudity)

Running time: 1:40; in Norwegian with English subtitles

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