Headhunters is a Norwegian movie subtitled in English.
I don’t think I’m being presumptuous in assuming most Americans wouldn’t be familiar with any of these actors names, in the same unfortunate way most of them wouldn’t recognize the name Noomi Rapace. (The brilliant young actress who portrayed Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”) But both male actors impressed me here, and even if I never see them in another film, I believe their names noteworthy.
Askel Hennie plays Roger Brown, a corporate recruiter who moonlights as an art thief. Roger starts the movie by noting he is 5’6 and to compensate, he feels he must live large, with a lifestyle only his criminal activities can support. Synnove Macody Lund is his lovely blonde wife, Diana, a woman he fears he will lose if he doesn’t continue to shower her in gifts. And Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays Clas Greve, a man up for a high position at Askel’s recommendation. Oh, and by the way, Clas has a multi-million dollar painting in his house, and in his military days, he was a professional tracker. (Gee..where could THIS be heading??)
Much of the first half of this movie is a set up of sorts, establishing our game and our players, (like ‘Inception’ for example) but like any good suspense film, you can never be sure of what you’re seeing. As an author, I know the art of letting readers draw their own (wrong?) conclusions, and director Morten Tyldum does this exceptionally well with some very smart editing. He’s also very good at letting you get inside the mind of a character, using very subtle visual queues. Personally, I love this technique. It is very effective when, with just a glance, you know exactly what a person is thinking.
The slow build of suspense at the beginning is extremely well done. The film has a euro suave feel to it, making Roger’s character an easy sell. Knowing that his hobby is dangerous allows the viewer to experience his caution, even when he doesn’t sense it himself. And when things start to break down for him, about halfway through this movie, you can’t help but make the same assumptions he does.
Without giving away too much of the plot or storyline, the last hour of this movie is very different than the first. It’s frenzied for a while, a ride if you will, and as things heat up and get more intense, the story gets much harder to buy. There comes, at this point, an eye rolling list of contrived ‘luck’ and coincidence. Like, a person leaving a high security room you need to get in to or the guy following a tracking dog is suddenly nowhere to be found when it finds you. (The kind of thing that happens all over the place in the second half of this movie.) However, because the movie is riding on such cool characters and an interesting story, you sort of forgive it. (Same as you do with any good action/drama, let’s face it.) Because this movie is more than just exciting…it’s smart. Incredibly smart. And when it starts to take new twists and turns, you’re stuck like a passenger in a raft on the rapids…wide-eyed and white-knuckled, spinning and dipping, wondering where the hell you’ll end up.
The ending was acceptable and kind of neat, but…there was a very big loose end they tied up with a garbage explanation. (The kind that said, “Yeah, this doesn’t make sense, but how cool was our ending besides that?”) And I guess they have me there…because I couldn’t argue. ‘Headhunters’ is a really slick, exciting movie and I gave it a glowing four stars. It’s a watcher, for sure!