Scandinavian cinema is enjoying something of a boom of late. The Milennium Trilogy, Let The Right One In and Troll Hunter have all achieved both critical and commercial success and all of them have either been remade (or are undergoing remakes) as English language versions. It’s no surprise that Headhunters has also been optioned as it’s an absolutely superb, quick fire thriller that rattles along at such a pace that you can practically feel the wind rush by your ears.
Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a fast-talking recruitment specialist who moonlights as an art thief in order to keep up the payments on his flash house and keep his gorgeous wife Diana (Synove Macody Lund) in exclusive gifts. Just as Roger’s starting to get desperate Diana introduces him to Clas Greve (Game Of Thrones’ very own Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a handsome former soldier who’s now a powerful executive.
Under the guise of setting him up with a new job, Roger plans to steal a lost Rubens painting that Clas has revealed he owns. But when the theft doesn’t quite go according to plan, Roger quickly finds himself on the run from both the police and Clas – whose particular set of skills enable him to track Roger wherever he hides.
It’s a great set up. Roger is such a despicable corporate weasel and unprincipled scoundrel that when he gets his comeuppance it’s a delight to watch. And what comeuppance it is – the script has Roger shot, stabbed, betrayed, shaved bald, thrown off a cliff, bitten by a dog, run of the road while driving a tractor and forced to hide under six feet of human shit.
Hats off to Aksel Hennie (who looks like he’s the missing link between Steve Buscemi and Paul Bettany), who manages to make Roger sympathetic and likeable despite being an absolute tool, something which is key, because without that, we as an audience wouldn’t be rooting for him. It’s got a wonderful macabre edge which always hits the mark and morphs seamlessly from an icy thriller into over-the-top dark comedy without even slowing down.
Headhunters is never less than relentlessly entertaining and director Mortern Tyldum has such a tight rein on Joe Nesbo’s script that if it were any more streamlined, it’d need a spoiler to stop it from taking off. If there is one nitpick, it’s that the plot does start to unravel somewhat if given too much thought but Headhunters is so quick, so sharp and such breathless fun that that’s barely even a consideration. Go see it immediately.