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Headhunters—movie review

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
April 27, 2012 12:50 AM
3 Comments
  • |
Aksel Hennie in Headhunters
Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

I can’t remember the last time a movie surprised me as much as Headhunters: not just its story twists and turns, which are considerable, but its continual stripping of character veneer and overall audaciousness left me breathless. I haven’t read any of the growingly-popular novels by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø (whose reputation has grown in the past few years, possibly in the wake of Sweden’s Stieg Larsson), but if this is indicative of his storytelling skills, I’m impressed.

The film captures our attention right away by introducing us to its highly unlikely “hero,” a smug, high-level corporate headhunter who plays to win. He’s even won himself a beautiful wife, although he admits that the expensive, ultramodern house in which they live is more her taste than his. Then he explains, in voice-over narration, that he has a second source of income to support his expensive lifestyle: he is a successful art thief. When his wife opens a stylish new gallery and befriends a newcomer who happens to own a valuable Rubens painting, he simply can’t resist going after it, with the help of a partner who works for a home-security firm.

To reveal much more would rob the film of its many layers and revelations; let’s just say that it matches its plot complications with scenes of action and suspense that rival any Hollywood has to offer.

Actor Aksel Hennie, who plays the job recruiter/thief is a popular star in Norway, but this demanding and wide-ranging performance should put him on the world stage. Fans of Game of Thrones will recognize the movie’s second male lead, Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, a robustly handsome man who throws several monkey wrenches into Hennie’s plans. (He’s also appeared in two films for director Ridley Scott, Black Hawn Down andKingdom of Heaven.)

Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, Macody Lund in Headhunters
Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing

Director Morten Tyldum realizes all the potential in the ingenious script by Lars Gudmstead and Ulf Ryberg (whose credits include the screenplay of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and one episode of Wallander). My wife, who read Headhunters, actually likes the film better than the novel, and tells me that the screenwriters made one substantial change involving the female characters. Whatever they did, it works.

Headhunters is a sleeper that ought to generate strong word-of-mouth. A Hollywood studio is already preparing a remake, but I doubt if an American filmmaker will pull off the story with the same gutsiness that marks this striking Norwegian import.

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3 Comments

  • Rhys | August 25, 2012 8:35 PMReply

    Headhunters sounds like my kind of movie and I’ve actually embraced foreign films. Sometimes the quality, story, and acting is fantastic which means that stepping outside of the box for movies is a great idea. It’s been getting great reviews and that made me decide that I want to see it when it comes out. I subscribe to Blockbuster @ Home so I’ve got access to a bunch of different movies and TV shows, Headhunters included. Even though it doesn’t come out until next week, I was still able to add the movie to my queue and I’ll have the movie in my mailbox sometime soon. A Dish co-worker recommended Blockbuster to me after she was able to find a movie she wanted to see that no one else had. This movie may inspire me to start reading Jo Nesbo’s books: he also has great reviews.

  • Anne | May 4, 2012 4:40 PMReply

    You should read Jo Nesbo's books. I've read all of them that have been translated into English and can't wait for the next one, coming out this fall.

  • Bedd Gelert | April 29, 2012 12:22 PMReply

    The film is Tremendous with a Capital T. But don't wait for someone to spoil it for you by giving away plot twists or over-hyping it - go and see it, NOW.

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