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Roger Brown is not a very nice person. By day he is a successful headhunter for large corporations, by night he is an art thief. Small in stature, Roger also feels inferior to other men and his fear of losing his beautiful partner makes him live beyond his means. When he discovers that one of Diana’s friends has a missing painting worth millions he sees it as a chance of making enough to keep Diana and make enough money to banish his financial woes forever. However, his mark, Clas Greve, is playing an altogether more dangerous game...
Headhunters (2011 - 1 hr, 36 min, 10 sec) is a Norwegian crime thriller directed by Morten Tyldum. The script, by Ulf Ryberg and Lars Gudmestad, was based on the novel by Jo Nesbø.
The film is an incredibly stylish European thriller, containing many elements which are missing in Hollywood films. There was a time in Hollywood’s history where the antihero was of great interest from anything from dramas like On the Waterfront to numerous gangster films. However, the antihero has substantially fallen out of favour in the States, to be replaced with morally centred uber-humans, this does not even include the range of superhero films which abound, but finds itself into thrillers and crime genres.
The rest of world cinema still has a soft spot for the antihero. Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is not what you consider to be a nice person; stealing art to pay for a life style which he hopes will keep his beautiful wife, Diana Brown (Synnøve Macody Lund), his lack of wealth and stature means that he doesn’t even like himself very much. He professes love and devotion for his wife, whilst at the same time, enthusiastically making love to his girlfriend.
A chance meeting, with Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) at the opening of Diana’s art gallery makes Roger think that he has found the mark of a lifetime, as Clas seems to own a missing master, worth potentially hundreds of millions. Roger ropes him in with the offer of an important job, a rival to the company Clas currently works for, in order to be able to track his movements and know when it is save to steal the picture.
All appears to be going well, Clas leaves for a few days and Roger gains access to his apartment. With the picture in hand he is distracted by a group of young girls playing outside Clas’s window. The tableau brings feeling of regret as he has always denied his wife children. In a fit of sentimentality he rings his wife, who fails to pick up because her phone is next to Clas’s bed where she left it and where Roger finds it.
Betrayed by his wife, and thinking that he has got away with the painting, Roger leaves, but the next day his accomplice, Ove Kjikerud (Eivind Sander) is found, seemingly, dead in his car. Roger goes on the run, with Clas, a onetime tracker for the military, close on his heels.
Aksel Hennie makes the perfect antihero who, through the curse of the film, does not quite get redeemed, but certainly finds a more comfortable way of living in his own skin. The chase, when it starts, continues at a furious pace, having Roger shot at, bitten by a dog, throw off a cliff and covered in excrement, drive a tractor at an unhealthy speed, with a dead dog stuck to the front. As an aside, whilst the film is happy to show violence and gore where the humans are concerned, when it comes to the dog's death, it is more implied, which should make animal lovers happy.
If Roger is small and weak, then his opponent Clas is tall, attractive and confident. The part could have been made for Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who is better known as Game of Thrones's, Jamie Lanaster, he plays the part with no small measure of teutonic Terminator zeal as he relentlessly tracks Roger across the countryside.
The script is witty; the direction intense, the film has pretty much everything you could want from a crime/thriller, plus it has a logical, entertainingly surprising story, with numerous twists which all make perfect logical sense by the end of the film. I found myself watching one film, sure of where we were going and then a single sentence changed the whole film and I realised that the film was about something completely different, brilliant.
The DVD has a clear picture, as one would expect from a new film, with audio options for either an English DD 5.1 dub, which is reasonable or the original Norwegian DD 5.1 with English subtitles. There are only two extras on the DVD, Behind the Scenes (21 min, 43 sec) which has the cast and crew talking about the film. It’s a more honest look; the actors are allowed to express the fact that the director, as a perfectionist, is a little difficult to work with. Mostly they are complimentary about each other and the movie. The only other extra is the Theatrical Trailer (1 min, 28 sec).
This is a thrilling well-crafted film and even if you don’t like subtitles, the inclusion of an English dub means that the film is accessible to all.