Movie #45: Headhunters

I love movies with good plot twists, and the Norwegian film Headhunters (Hodejegerne) is enjoyable not only because of the surprises in its storyline, but the movie twists from style to style as well. The film starts out as an edgy, modern, satirical fable (like Fight Club or American Psycho). Executive recruiter Roger Brown feels that the only way to keep his wife Diana — a gorgeous, blonde gallery owner — is to shower her with luxuries (which he pays for by stealing valuable paintings from his clients without their knowledge). Enter Clas Greve (played with effortless charm by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from Game of Thrones): a new, perfect candidate for a CEO position that Brown is trying to fill, and owner of a valuable Reubens painting that would set Brown up for life. Once he plans to steal Greve’s painting, the movie becomes a bit of a heist film, then quickly shifts into a somewhat-violent black-comedy of errors (like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Pulp Fiction) and in a flurry of unfortunate events, Brown’s life is turned upside-down and dumped out. (There’s a lot more about Greve’s past that Brown does not know.) This movie takes its protagonist through quite a character arc, starting with a slick corporate opportunist and stripping away everything including his personal safety and identity and letting him hit rock bottom. I was amazed at how much had already happened by the time I thought the movie was coming to an end, but it was only half-way! Motivated by desperation and a new sense of purpose, Brown spent the second half of the movie fighting back against the people who were coming after him, and getting back the things that were genuinely meaningful. (I’m being unfortunately vague because there are a number of surprises even in the second half of the movie that I would hate to spoil for anyone planning to watch this movie — which should be everyone!). Thankfully it didn’t exactly turn into a full-on revenge movie in the vein of Charles Bronson (or I guess a more contemporary analogue would be Liam Neeson). Nevertheless, the new Roger Brown was determined to get his life back and he turned out to be pretty clever and resourceful when he needed to be. I also enjoyed the way he became something of a tragic hero who originally thought he was cool even though he was only a poseur. It was only when he lost it all and struggled his way back that he became truly cool and a winner. Aksel Hennie plays Roger Brown and does an incredible job, given how much his character experiences both physically and emotionally over the course of this movie (there are a number of “can I look away?” moments). He’s got a successful acting/writing/directing career in Norway, but I had never heard of him before. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by him in this film. On the other hand, most other characters in the movie were there more for context. Even Coster-Waldau was not really asked to stretch much in his performance. I imagine he was cast mostly for his Danish good looks and for name recognition (though I’m not sure if this was filmed before or after Game of Thrones began). It’s probably hard to get a sense of this movie from my meager description, but simply put, I have not enjoyed a “twisty-plots” movie this much for a very long time. You must check this one out! (5 out of 5)

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2 thoughts on “Movie #45: Headhunters”

  1. Thanks, Mike. Wow, you must have been really determined to watch this movie! I rented it on iTunes (after missing it in the few theatres that showed it here in Toronto). I hope more people will get to enjoy this movie now. (I wonder if they’re considering an American remake.)

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