Every now and then a film comes along so quietly, without fanfare, that when it manages to entertain in such a consummate way, I walk out of the theater like a zombie shocked at how great it was.  Headhunters is one of those pictures. Not only is it one of the best of the year, it’s also a reminder that sometimes, the most exciting stories aren’t being made in Hollywood or even the U.S. at all. The white knuckle ride is based on Norwegian author, Jo Nesbø’s bestselling novel of the same name. The thriller furthers the rise of Scandinavian crime fiction. It follows in the recent success of the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson of which The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the most famous entry. The production was such a success in its native Norway, there’s already an American remake in the works. Please see this first.

Roger Brown lives a dual life. Within the law he works as a corporate recruiter, finding talented people who work for other companies and making them lucrative offers to join the firm with which he‘s currently employed. Roger sort of looks like a healthier blonde version of Steve Buscemi. He’s married to a ridiculously tall gorgeous blonde who exacerbates his crushing insecurity that he isn’t good enough for her. You see at 1.68 meters tall (about 5’5”) he’s got a bit of Napoleonic complex. He’s got a mistress as well. In order to keep them both happy he showers them with expensive gifts. That obviously costs a lot of money and so he has taken on a second job of sorts. Here’s where he operates outside the law stealing rare works of art.  Then one day he interviews a job candidate who seems to be the perfect match for a new CEO position. He’s a handsome but ruthless technical expert named Clas Greve, played by actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. The actor is evil on TV as well as brutal swordsman Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones. Coincidentally Clas Greve is likewise in possession of a rare and priceless masterpiece by Peter Paul Rubens which Roger would desire to own. Upon learning of this, Roger realizes his two worlds are about to collide. Little does he know how catastrophic the merger will be.

What makes Headhunters so ridiculously engaging is how the narrative develops in a way that you cannot guess the outcome. That’s precisely the fun. Like classic suspense of the past, this has the kinds of twists and turns that would make Hitchcock proud. There’s one surprise after another and the developments are innovative in that way. However I can attest, Headhunters is very much an example of modern storytelling that resembles something by Quentin Tarantino or the Coen brothers. It’s bloody and raw. Think Pulp Fiction or Fargo. If you think those are lofty comparisons, you haven’t seen this movie. Yet there’s a humanism present that sets this apart from those classics and makes this distinctly different. These are people with insecurities and weaknesses that are altogether apparent. In between the action, there is a declaration of love that’s incredibly touching. They still long to be loved. The violence never seems gratuitous, only necessary to emphasize the absolute nightmare of which Roger becomes a part. It’s a drama that starts slowly but as the tale unfolds it seizes the viewer with brute force. It’s pretty over the top. There’s a depiction of an auto accident where I literally forgot to breathe for 60 seconds. But that’s the standard set piece prevalent here and that’s what makes this thriller so exhilarating.

30 Responses to “Headhunters”

  1. I believe I’d heard of this one, but it wasn’t until now that I’ve felt I’ve needed to see it so badly. You have me sold, as this is probably a film I would enjoy very much. I’ll have to wait till DVD though (I’ll check when it hits home video) because I have yet to notice a foreign language film playing in my area. Great review as usual.

    P.S. Isn’t Stieg Larsson Swedish?


  2. Thanks for this one. I added it to my wish list and must see it after you mentioned it in the same breath as two of my all-time favorites.


  3. Excellent write up Mark. Glad you enjoyed this one. I only hope that more people see this. It’s an outstanding thriller that ranks as one the finest I’ve seen in recent years.


  4. Sir Grout Says:

    Can’t wait to see this! Great review


  5. Great review. I am DYING to see this one after so many glowing reviews. I am sure I will love it.


  6. I really really want to see this one and also to read Nesbo’s work. I’m hopeful that Scorsese’s Nesbo creation will be amazing as well.


  7. Hadn’t heard of the film before I read this, but now I have I really want to see it.


  8. Jens Takle Says:

    As a norwegian I’m glad you picked this movie. I liked it as an action movie, but otherwise I thought this movie was to american, with a bunch of unprofessional cops who don’t know how to do their jobs, just like in Die Hard. The police are caricatures, specially the fat twin cops. And I think that you overpraising this movie so much, that you even comparing it to Tarantino and Coens films, please explain why, because I don’t see any resemblance at all, and it certainly doesn’t have a modern storytelling, it’s chronological standard story telling, except for some cross cutting in the start and in the end.


    • Headhunters is similar to those films in that the story blends genres. It intertwines a variety of fascinating characters within that story. One minute it’s s thriller, the next it’s a comedy, then it’s horror. The fat twin cops were part of the humor. It was a subtle visual gag at a point in the narrative that got very tense. A little levity was needed. I’m surprised you didn’t love it more. It’s getting rave reviews.


      • Jens Takle Says:

        What you are describing now is the average action film, a genre that some times loosen up with some jokes like in many Schwarzenegger films and in Die Hard. Even the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had some funny moments, even horror sequences. It doesn’t mean it’s a comedy. Almost all action films have funny moments, that’s the whole point, because it doesn’t have to be pulled down by the real physical laws.

        Does this film follows multiple story lines, and in different times? Is this film extremely violent? is there any stylistic murders? Does people talk about everyday objects, that is not related to the plot? Is there any ordinary people who finds themselves caught up in extraordinary situations? No. I can understand that you loved this movie so much, but it’s simply wrong to compare it to the great masters, when none of their basic elements doesn’t occur in this movie.


    • I happen to think it was a great film. I suppose if everyone saw movies the same way, there wouldn’t be a need to make such a wide variety. Not surprising that one person might enjoy a film more than another. Thanks for commenting!


  9. moviewriting Says:

    Glad that you enjoyed this one, Mark. I have heard so many great things about it, and I have the book waiting to be read on my iPhone (really must get around to reading it!). It really annoys me that Hollywood have got their mits on this story; an American remake is completely unnecessary. I heard there is already a remake of The Raid in the works; completely redundant and just encourages people to avoid world cinema.


    • Oh I hadn’t heard about The Raid remake. I agree with you. It annoys me too. However, it’s so easy to blame Hollywood. They’re justifiably in the business to make money. If more people went to see the original foreign films, these remakes wouldn’t happen.


  10. I still haven’t seen this yet and i want to, everything i’ve been hearing has been good.


  11. What’s this? Headhunters is free for Netflix streaming?? I might watch this tomorrow in that case. 😀


  12. I literally just finished watching this within the last few minutes. You set my expectations VERY high, and I still loved it. I can’t imagine it taking me any less than an hour and a half to write about. Such a brilliant movie.


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