A friend said to me recently “the bubble is going to burst” maybe but for now myself and millions of cinephiles worldwide will continue to enjoy the current wave of Scandinavian cinema (& television)that’s sweeping us off our feet. The latest invader is Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters (Hodejegerne), the first from an author who has refused to climb onboard the trend of book adaptation but has now thankfully given into temptation with the end result that’s nothing but fantastic.
Roger Brown (Askel Hennie) seems to have it all, a beautiful wife (Synnove Macody Lund), luxurious home, a successful business career. He may not be tall in stature but Roger seems to keep his wife happy despite the fact he can’t keep up with the mortgage payments. Been that successful corporate headhunter Roger crosses paths with many similar successful people, mostly potential candidates for the companies he’s working for. Through his wife’s art exhibition he meets Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who becomes the latest candidate for Roger’s ‘headhunting’ who also help him live his alternative extravagant lifestyle by stealing high profile artwork they possess. Through Clas, Roger learns he owns one of the most sought after paintings, a painting would answer all his financial problems and end this crazy alternative second ‘job’ Roger has.
Just as Roger pockets the painting he doesn’t realise he has just embarked on his most dangerous heist to date, not even after what else he finds at Clas home. What follows after is a dark and relentless game of cat and mouse as the hunter becomes the hunted.
So what is it that’s made Scandinavian cinema so popular these days?It’s probably because it reminds us of the times of Hollywood before it was destroyed by 3D gimmickry and over reliance on CGI, a time when we focused on the story giving us a chance to appreciate the characters. At first, when we meet Roger we don’t really care much about him, he’s smug, cocky, overconfident, full of himself most of all insecure but as the film progress, we become more sympathetic or even just empathetic as hardship prevails. As for Clas, he seems the total opposite of Roger, very confident, tough as nails, alpha male providing those needs Roger fails to provide his wife, a threat.
Headhunters is a film stacked to the rafters with creativity, a little unconventional at times but in a way that the film’s narrative structure holds fantastically well together. The film hits you at a fast pace you don’t want to pause, step away from the screen as it’s a gripping exciting film start to the finish. What this film really excels at is its ability to throw the book of common sense out the window to become a film that rarely takes itself seriously. There are moments what we’re watching is totally farcical but in a way, it never feels out of place with the whole tone of the film.There’s one example I don’t want to say much about it, but when I watched Headhunters at the cinema I volunteer for it had the majority of the screen roaring with laughter apart from those who adore animals, seeing is believing, that’s all I’ll say!
When it comes to calling films, writers, actors “the new….” I do tend to get a little annoyed as it brings unwarranted pressure on that person or if it’s a film gives the viewer a false sense of expectation. In Jo Nesbo’s case, he is been labelled ‘the new Steig Larsson’ I agree to the extent that Nesbo is keeping the Scandinavian film flag flying high but that is really where it ends. Larsson was a writer who excelled in writing dark, gritty psychological even political thrillers as for Nesbo his stories a dark and do have visceral bloody moments but he brings comedy to the table so I would go as far as associating him more with Coen Brothers than Larsson.
Headhunters is probably the best dark satirical thrillers you’ll see this year, it’s neither controversial nor is it overran with violence and blood, it feels more at home with the farcical elements that made Fargo such a cult hit. As usual Hollywood has found a new cash cow, I would recommend seeing this before before it’s destroyed by an un-welcomed remake. If you really hate subtitles there is a dubbed version of the film on the disc which gives the film an extra layer of humour as the dubbed voices make this even funnier.
★★★★ |Paul Devine
Crime, Drama, Thriller | Norway, 2011 | 15 | 13th August 2012 (UK) | eOne UK | Dir.Morten Tyldum | Askel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund,Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Julie R. Ølgaard