Headhunters (2011)

Headhunters (2011) movie poster

director Morten Tyldum
viewed: 09/03/2012

Headhunters is a Norwegian crime thriller, which I would suggest as a sort of post-Pulp Fiction (1994) sense of comedy, irony and gruesome violence to stretch its genre conventions.  Adapted from the novel, Hodejegerne, by Jo Nesbø, it’s had a popular run in both Norway and in the states, and is unsurprisingly being re-adapted for an American remake.

It’s the story of a top recruiter or “headhunter,” Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), who leads a double life as an art thief, all to support his big blond trophy wife.  When he ends up crossing the wrong client, things head south in a series of brutal, surprising twists (which I’ll try not to reveal here).  He goes pretty far afield in what turns out to be a brutal, at times comic, series of events.

Ultimately, it’s the story of a painstakingly refined hot shot who has carved himself a slick life who learns how fragile his situation is.  Not just fragile, but a hair’s breadth above hell.  He ultimately comes to learn a thing or two about himself and his life…or does he?  The thing about Roger Brown is that, like the bland falseness of his name, he’s not a terrible sympathetic character.  He’s shallow, self-important, and glib.  He kind of deserves whatever comes of him in the bad ways that it does.  And so throughout the film, he’s hard to root for.  Maybe he’s not meant to be that sympathetic, but as a character painted in that way, it leaves a level of distance as he falls down the rabbit hole.

The other characters are sort of flat as well, so maybe it is some aspect of failing on the film.  When it’s at its best, it is unflinchingly brutal, featuring some pretty funny plot turns.  For my money, it’s okay, not great, not bad, nothing to write home about.

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