Meet Roger Brown. Roger is a highly successful recruiter, or headhunter, and it is fair to say that he’s a bit of a scoundrel. He takes great pleasure belittling and undermining those at work whilst operating outside of his legal profession as an efficient art thief. He uses this money to pay for his extravagant lifestyle and to buy lavish gifts for his beautiful wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) whom he feels will leave him, mostly because of his small stature (he is 5’6” tall). At the same time he is also in the middle of a seedy affair with Lotte (Julie Olgaard) whom he meets for casual sex. Ladies and gentlemen let me introduce you to the ‘hero’ of Headhunters. Yes, the Scandinavian’s like to do things a bit differently.
Following on from the hugely successful Millennium trilogy of books and subsequent Swedish film adaptations which made us care for an anti-social goth, comes this Norwegian adaptation of author Jo Nesbø’s international bestseller. Right off the bat it becomes apparent that Headhunters is nuts. Think the demented and adrenaline-fuelled love child of the Die Hard series’ balls-out action, crossed with the Bourne films’ more sophisticated style and you have this, arguably one of the finest thrill-rides of the year. Things start to develop when poor old Roger makes the mistake of targeting suave Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) for his next burglary assignment. Clas however, happens to be a mysteriously treacherous man, being a former mercenary and soon Roger finds himself involved in a highly dangerous game of cat-and-mouse that includes an incorporation of human excrement that would make even Danny Boyle, King of human waste scenes (see Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire) feel proud and ok, a little queasy.
Thankfully Director Morten Tyldum appears to have been the right man for the job, effectively bottling the relentless energy from the book and releasing it in all its high-octane, bloody and comically gory glory in 100 minutes. Although it does lose some of its momentum by the end when attempting to explain the villain’s motives, Headhunters remains a consistent and enjoyable rush. Plausibility levels are also slightly stretched as the film progresses but Tyldum gets away with it due to the darkly comical outlook that he conveys. At one point Roger is saved in a near fatal car crash due to being cushioned between two fat blokes in the back seat. It’s this refreshing attitude that differentiates Headhunters from the current crop of Hollywood thrillers that take themselves just far too seriously.
There may still be some who fail to be convinced as we jump from “yeah right” scenario to the next whilst others may be persuaded enough by the first 20 minutes to see Roger as nothing more than a bastard and undeserving of sympathy. However given the amount of shit thrown at him (almost literally), most should warm to this unconventional character played immensely well by Aksel Hennie imbuing the man with both smarminess yet deep insecurity. Most importantly, however, Headhunters is just pure, unadulterated fun proving to be an excellently bonkers adaptation of Nesbø’s already pretty mad book.
Headhunters (2011), directed by Morten Tyldum, is distributed on Blu-Ray disc and DVD in the UK by Momentum Pictures, Certificate 15.