You Won't Regret Tracking Down "Headhunters" Review

Sometimes a filmmaker tries to craft a film wherein the elements are tied together more intricately than they originally appear to be when first shown to the audience. Morten Tyldum's thriller Headhunters falls prey to this trend but then missteps, though only at the film's end in an attempt to wrap up in a bow a very chaotic and fast-paced story. Until that point, the story keeps you guessing and genuinely enthralled as the once calm and collected protagonist (played by Aksel Hennie) is doggedly hunted by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones’ own Jaime Lannister) and thus driven into head-shaven, panicked, bloody mess. The desire by the writers to give the film a nice and clean ending understandable, but it retroactively and sadly calls into question many of the film’s prior decisions which up until that point we were willing to accept as the unpredictable results of a manhunt.

Roger Brown (Hennie) stakes his entire career as a headhunter on the value of reputation; namely his, which has gained considerable clout thanks to his ability to see the long-game in the battle of wits between employers and the potentially employed. When he meets Clas Greve (Coster-Waldau), an executive at a high-ranking nano-technology tracking firm and the perfect fit to fill a CEO position with a rival firm, Brown discovers two solutions in one. Because while Greve is not only a perfect fit for the job, he also happens to have a priceless piece of art in his newly inherited apartment, and that suits Roger’s off the books hobby just fine: he’s an art thief.

Midway through stealing the piece, he discovers his beautiful wife (Synnove Macody Lund) is having an affair with Clas and sabotages the man’s efforts to get the new position. In so doing, he incites the man’s ire and sets off a conspiracy that makes him the prey in a deadly pursuit that will test the loyalties of those around him and force Roger to do things a man of his reputation would never have previously considered viable.

Hennie and Coster-Waldau play their parts perfectly, with the former quickly adopting the proper wild-eyed insanity typical of an animal being driven into a corner and the latter playing the cool, methodical hunter he’s supposed to be. The transformation that Hennie goes through, starting as a status and money-obsessed with a face and head of hair that makes him look like the lovechild of Christopher Walken and Steven Buscemi only to turn into a desperate and crazed man (with a resemblance to a bald Kris Marshall), gives the film its strongly needed reality.

It’s a grounding that proves increasingly important as the film leverages a technological device that strains the film’s credibility slightly and then puts Roger through a stunt which rationalizes his survival by packing him between to human airbags (really obese police officers). Accepting these plot points and then the final wrap-up at the end makes the whole thing a bit hard to swallow, but the thrills and non-stop pace make it easier, and in the end it all balances on how forgiving you’ll be of a film that gave you a solid 100-minutes of entertainment that didn’t know enough to just walk off into the sunset and instead just kept talking in an attempt to look clever. If we accept the ending, it implies a level of foresight that just isn’t believable in our hero considering how confused as to what’s happening to him for the first two acts of the film.

Also, as a sidenote, it ought to be pointed out that as the film is in Norwegian, you have the option to watch the film with either English dubbing or subtitles. Be warned: neither solution is perfect. Should you watch with both, you’ll notice numerous instances where the two actually contradict one another as to what characters are saying. Based on context you can easily figure out which of the two translations makes sense, but watching with just one means you’ll likely have one point here or there that makes no sense whatsoever.

DVD Bonus Features

A behind the scenes featurette is the only extra.

"Headhunters" is on sale August 28, 2012 and is rated R. Action, Thriller. Directed by Morten Tyldum. Written by Lars Gudmestad, Ulf Ryberg. Starring Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster Waldau, Synnøve Macody Lund.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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