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Sep 5, 2013

Review: Headhunters (2012)

           Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Synnove Macody Lund, Julie Olgaard and Eivind Sander


                   Morten Tyldum


                 This movie is the reason why I love the European way of filmmaking in general without going in much details about specific countries or genres, they mostly give equal attention to both craft, style and the substance. Sometimes a little too much or none at all but usually they are very good. A bright example will be this particular movie which I didn't know anything about. One day I just stumbled upon its trailer and immediately recognized the star from HBO's hit "Game of Thrones". The trailer looked quite interesting and the movie itself thrilling. It wasn't until the reviews came out that I seriously considered watching this movie. Headhunters is a Norwegian thriller based on Jo Nesbo's novel "Hodejegerne". It is filled with many interesting twists and turns, a combination of heist and chase films with characters who are worth spending time with. I suppose a Hollywood remake is also on its way, well I highly doubt that they are going to match the greatness of this film. Hollywood films mostly are a fodder to earn money using more visual effects and nonsensical plots. I don't know why they even bother re-making something that is already so perfect? Oh wait! to ruin it. This movie is everything that Hollywood films are not anymore, their movies are targeted towards a crowd in for something entertaining. But then having a good time in the movies doesn't mean that you need to make them as much meaningless as you can. There always has to be a balance, which is how you can make successfully worthy movies and provide entertainment with it. So, in this movie we have Roger Brown (Hennie) who is Norway's most successful headhunter, married to the beautiful Diana (Lund) who is a gallery owner. Now Roger is also an art thief who steals pictures from his clients using the information he gets from them during the interviews. A man named Ove (Sander) is his accomplice in this, he helps Roger by way of deactivating his victim's home security systems since he works at a surveillance company. One day during an exhibition at Diana's gallery, Roger meets a man named Clas Greve (Waldau) who wants to be the CEO of Pathfinder, Roger is recruiting for that company. Clas is highly qualified and experienced, he looks good, he seems to be giving a little too much attention to Diana, plus he owns a rare painting that Roger wants. A mix of intrigue and jealousy, little does Roger knows that he is in for some big trouble.

                 The most interesting thing about Headhunters is that it is a dark comedy. The way these characters or a particular character always finds themselves in the very situations that points out towards their own insecurities, fears and perceptions about them or the others who are in their view somehow more perfect than them is funny. Roger is too self-conscious about himself, his 5.6 height and his manhood perhaps. He is also married to a woman who is very tall, beautiful and blond. So that is another thing he is conscious about. Roger also avoids his wife trying to talk to him about starting a family. Then he meets a man who is exactly the kind of ideal 'man' that he perhaps wanted to be. Features and his abilities to woe aside, there is one thing that Roger is good at and that is his work, or so he believes. Clas coming into his life like that causes a bit of rift in Roger's own life. He wants to break the man down and somehow overpower him and move on. I don't mean that he wants to kill him but that he wants to get his hands on a rare painting that Clas has, that is how he feels he might make him inferior in his own eyes. While at Clas' house, Roger finds out the very thing he was afraid of, his wife's cellphone. From there on, the whole cycle of killings, chases, deceptions and violence begins. Without giving us a second to breathe, the movie starts a vicious cycle where nothing looks simple or straightforward. Headhunters unfolds in a very carefully paced way, the pacing is everything here. Once the movie gets going with its near-implausibilities, it is impossible to stop anywhere until it all ends. Aksel Hennie's performance in this movie is good. He plays his character in a way that is at first, capable but passive but it changes soon. The situations that Roger gets into are really hard to imagine but he somehow always finds a way to get out of them. He realizes the deceptions, hints the wrong, hides himself, runs away, comes back. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is good looking as always and is good as the badass-ass of a bad guy. Overall the performances aren't groundbreaking or anything but the actors are capable of being at their best throughout. I didn't find anything underwhelming about the performances, the energy is always there, they don't forget to act.

                 Headhunters is also, quite importantly, filled with great amount of gross violence. The very same way the more thematic element concerning male inadequacy is playfully added giving it a satirical edge, the grotesque gore is too given a new meaning here. You can call this movie in the likes of Coen brothers, Hitchcock with touch of noir and some Sam Raimi type of gore to go with it. The action sequences, the chases, shootouts or the accidents involving people been thrown off the cliffs etc are quite a blast to watch. The suspense goes to its very peak and it just doesn't stops there. The movie goes on showing disfigured bodies and huge amount of blood. But it somehow never feels too much in a sense that you know why its there. Its all about how you incorporate different elements in your movie. Taking everything together the way it should be or per the kind of a vision the filmmaker originally has. Headhunters is filled with twists that comes out of nowhere and knocks you off. There are several implausible situations, not that they ruins your film viewing experience here because they actually add up to it. But they are not your serious plot holes or whatever you call them, they all make up for a guilty pleasure viewing. Explosive violence, dark comedy, thrill and surprise amount of character development makes this a brilliant movie. The character are not cardboard cuts here, they have a different side to them. They never stay the same, they always change with their situations. The duplicity adds more wickedness and edge to the movie. It has well done cinematography and direction. Entertainment for the 'grown ups' doesn't get better than this. The stakes are high, every turn comes up with a shocking development. I particularly loved the atmosphere of this movie, it seemed noir-ish or Norway-ish to put it right. Watch this movie if you haven't.

Grade: B+