Streaming Review: Headhunters

Netflix | Instant Video
DVD | Blu-ray
Directed by Morten Tyldum
Starring Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Synnøve Macody Lund, Julie Ølgaard
Magnolia Home Entertainment
Originally Released: August 26, 2011

If you’re a fan of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or a nut for Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones, then it is without any doubt that I can say that you will want to watch the magnetic Headhunters. Trust me on this one: you will find your eyeballs nailed to the screen with this parade.

Continuing the "Scandinavian noir" established by other authors and many movies, Headhunters is a little deceiving, but in a good way. By its very title, you have established expectations, which get blown out of the water by the movie’s opening sequence, which then changes and gets whooshed out of the water even further by the progressions of the plot. You’ll have no idea what will kick you in the dick next.

Created in the home of Black Metal, the Norwegian film follows the character of plainly-named Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) who leads a successful business life as a headhunter for well-established firms from throughout Europe. While he enjoys a high level of achievement financially with his career, it is not enough (in his mind) for the lifestyle he wishes to lead for him and his wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund).

To subsist luxuriously well beyond his means, Brown turns to a second life – of high risk stakes art thief; using intelligence he gathers from potential clients to steal their expensive artistic possessions. Through his crime life, he governs his high-level expectation of standards, with an opening sequence and monologue that rivals that of Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. Just with less Huey Lewis and the News.

There’s also a radical scene involving shit and other human waste that rivals the sewer pipe in The Shawshank Redemption.

Except his crafty arrangement of professional headhunter by day, and art thief by night, is about to enter extreme turmoil – as both of his worlds collide in a detrimental fashion, when he becomes pursued by a “headhunter” of a completely different kind, with ties to both his professional interests.

What ensues is a roller-coaster labyrinth-styled mindfuck mystery in which the viewer is consistently lost and disoriented as to what the hell is actually going on. This disorientation is a deliberate factor of the story, sticking you on the edge of your seat unable to guess exactly what will happen next.

Based on the book by Jo Nesbø, under the direction of Morten Tyldum, Headhunters has become one of the most successful and critically acclaimed movies in Norway. The story and plot is exceptionally solid, though a few characteristics from the original source are omitted (most likely for the time factor more than anything else), yet it is carefully planned, excellently paced, with excellent suspense value that will keep you mindfucked for rather some time.

The character development is the basis to the story on-screen, particularly with our protagonist Roger Brown. This forms a fair amount of the foundation of the tale, for Brown will face turmoil of an insurmountable magnitude that will transform him forever – and force him to make a choice. And this choice will be the crossroads – what direction will he take to deal with the dilemma at hand.

Aksel Hennie seizes the lead role and runs with it brilliantly, all the while reminding me of a very young version of a Norwegian Christopher Walken. He has the same gazing intensity and his own unique vocal delivery that is an exhilaration to watch. However, it is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones fame that dominates with the enigmatic yet intimidating role of Clas Greve.

He is the antimatter to the matter that is Roger Brown, and the fusing of the two is disastrously explosive in a spectacular fashion. Greve posits himself as a formidable foe, and leaves no doubt as to Coster-Waldau’s flexibility and adaptability as an actor who has great admiration for his craft. Game of Thrones fans will love their Jaime Lannister in a different (but just as threatening) role.

Though Headhunters stands up incredibly strongly as a film, there are some elements that slightly let it down. The very final closing sequence (without being a spoiler, so to speak) serves as “the magician exposing the secret behind his tricks”. It’s an explanation scene, which explicitly highlights how things ended up the way they did.

While some viewers might appreciate this, the lengthy nature of this demonstration was demystifying to the movie – and served as your “whodunit” moment for a story that is not a “whodunit” film. (There are some questions as to motivations of nearly every single character). The sequence will not spoil the movie for you, but it neither serves any purpose to the plot overall as all the clues are there in the movie for the careful and attentive viewer to discover for themselves.

Whilst entertaining, there isn’t a great deal of visual effects in the movie, and those that are in there get reserved for the mind-blowing action sequences. There are several “chew off your toes” moments in Headhunters that deliver a high level of uncertainty and expectation of what is to happen next. Additionally, the fighting and conflicts and action are all considerably violent and bloody, with some sequences sure to make you fidget in your seat or even cross your legs.

That being said (in the combination of action scenes, effects, and plot development), there are also some (not many) moments that will require a slight suspension of belief and logic. While it progresses, most viewers will stay immersed in the pace of the tale to keep up with the clues and the guessing, but some, I fear, will pick up on these elements so literally that they’ll probably feel as if they’ve been taken out of the film. So, bear that in mind while watching.

You will discover Headhunters to be a highly engaging and impressive film to watch, and if you’re a bookworm like me, will be inspired to grab all the Kindle versions of other books written by creator Jo Nesbø for more. There is a great deal of influence from the Dragon Tattoo saga, so enthusiasts of that series will enjoy this movie – as will the Game of Thrones fans who will be thrilled to see Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

On that note, Headhunters is most definitely a movie you will want to see relatively soon. There are rumors abound that this successful Norwegian movie has been picked up by the vampires in Hollywood, and their track record of remaking foreign films is unreservedly shithouse. See this original spectacle while you can, before it’s ruined and tarnished by the money-hungry talentless suits in L.A.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5


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