Nordic noir is a genre on the lips of many at the moment; especially since the popularity of The Millennium Trilogy novels and the 2009 and 2011 versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which have ultimately allowed leading lady Noomi Rapace’s career to sky rocket (she’s now working with Ridley Scott). However, in Literature Nordic noir or Scandie Lit has continually topped European Best Seller’s list with authors like Jo Nesbø becoming household names. So, logically it would be a brilliant idea to transfer the literary phenomenon to the silver screen and surprisingly Headhunters works on many levels.
Headhunters follows Roger Brown (Aksell Hennie) who works by day as a headhunter but earns his real money in his other life as an accomplished art thief. Upon hearing that there’s a real Rubens’ painting left in a colleagues’ apartment Mr Brown takes it upon himself to steal it, hoping to make a financial killing. However his colleague (Greve played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is also playing deadly game and Roger is forced to go on the run as he’s chased by the police and Greve.
Why Headhunters works so well due to how focused it is. Director Morten Tyldum knows what he wants to portray and does it with such furiosity. Never does the film let up, once it gets going it drags the audience kicking and screaming to where ever it goes. However, it never feel like a tacky Norwegian Bourne knock off but more of a stand alone film with its own identity (no pun intended) possibly due to the fact it holds onto key noir characteristics; monochromatic colour palette, beautiful yet deadly females all with a spice of mystery. This combined with the rush-of-blood-to-the-head pacing means ‘Headhunters’ is quite literally cinematic jolt to the system.
On paper, our protagonist isn’t a figure you want to relate to: Roger Brown is an art thief who cheats on his beautiful wife and instead of fulfilling her maternal needs showers her with gifts. However, Aksel Hennie’s execution of Roger Brown forces all that to one side and gives us a character with depth; the audience accepts and understands his actions due to his insecurities and by the end of the runtime we’ve come to see something human within Roger that one could have not seen if the role was handed to an incapable actor.
Headhunters is a pure example of a foreign film retaining cultural values whilst appealing to mainstream audiences, it’s not an obviously challenging viewing but it’s an excellent one. It’s one of those films that doesn’t (yet is unfortunately getting) an American re-make. Don’t let subtitles effect your opinion, if you’re looking for whiplashing induing action with depth Headhunters is worth more than any action film out this month.
Review by LiveWire Young Film Critic, Jay Crosbie (April ’12)