'Headhunters' steadily cranks up the tension05/04/2012 - 13:03:15
Scandinavia has given birth to some of the most gripping and terrifying thrillers in recent years.
Vampire coming-of-age story ‘Let The Right One In’ sparked a Hollywood remake, so too did ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ and its unremittingly bleak and violent sequels.
On the small screen, ‘Wallander ‘and ‘The Killing’ revitalised police dramas, adding grit to familiar stories of murder and betrayal.
Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbo took up the mantle from the late Stieg Larsson, regularly gracing best-seller lists with his ingenious page-turners.
Nesbo’s 2008 novel ‘Headhunters’ provides the diabolical inspiration for this edge-of-seat thriller, directed by Morten Tyldum.
The central character is an emotionally cold, manipulative and unsympathetic corporate high-flyer, who steals from unsuspecting clients to fund his lavish lifestyle.
His smile and charm are fake: he’s vastly overdrawn on his bank accounts and he continually purloins to keep his head above the choppy waters of insolvency.
Truly – a man on the verge of catastrophe.
Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a corporate headhunter, who places great stock in his reputation.
Unbeknown to his colleagues and his beautiful wife Diana (Synnove Macody Lund), Roger supplements his modest income as an art thief.
“I play for high stakes. If you don’t gamble, you don’t win,” he tells us in voiceover.
He pilfers prized canvasses from clients while they are attending job interviews with the help of associate Ove Kjikerud (Eivind Sander), who works in an Oslo security company.
Roger lives by five rules which have served him well: learn everything he can about a target; spend no longer than 10 minutes inside a property; ensure he doesn’t leave behind any DNA evidence; only take what he came for; and accept that one day he will be caught.
Thanks to his wife, Roger meets suave businessman Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who is looking for a new position to match his obvious talents.
Clas has inherited a painting by Rubens called The Calydonian Boar Hunt, which would be worth millions on the black market.
So Roger and Ove plan the theft that will set them up for life.
‘Headhunters’ simmers gently for the opening 30 minutes, establishing the characters and the marital tension between Roger and Diana, which leads to one major plot twist.
As soon as Roger steps inside Clas’s apartment to take the painting, director Tyldum steadily cranks up the tension, building to a frenetic crescendo with a series of nerve-racking showdowns and chases.
Humour is black as night, including a disgusting sequence in an outhouse and some gruesome animal cruelty.
The machinations of the final act are preposterous yet jaw-droppingly brilliant, and we willingly suspend our disbelief because we want Roger to pull off his hare-brained scheme, even if a few innocent people are caught in the crossfire.
Star Rating: 3½
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