Another taut Scandinavian thriller based out of Oslo has an appealingly uninhibited matter-of-fact way about it, even as the story caps its cleverness a little too archly within its penchant for fine art. A twisty tale that should easily connect with art-house cineastes, even followers of the popular, late Stieg Larsson.
Headhunters (in Norwegian with English subtitles) features Aksel Hennie, Synnove Macody Lund, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, as Hennie turns out to be quite an effusive action hero. His recruitment agent Roger is sensitive, privately, about his physically short stature, so he keeps his gorgeous, tall blonde wife Diana (Lund) showered with expensive gifts from his nocturnal art pilfering activities.
The shifty, if full-throttle tale begins to never let up after Diana introduces Roger to a tall, urbane guy Clas (Coster-Waldau) looking to latch onto a high-powered position and boasts of having the famously 'lost' Rubens painting. Our rather likable, if objectionable hero will be at the mercy of a super assassin and the authorities when a dead body turns up.
What's so sharp about this adaptation of a 2008 Jo Nesbo tome is how wryly dark and wily it is as in playing off its eponymous, if amusing multiple meanings. Roger acts with a certain desperate freneticism that still is unable to disengage the empathy he exudes through a palpable combination of vulnerability and strength. Horror and paranoia insinuations are dabbled onto the creative canvas by deft helmer Morten Tyldum, who with his capable craft contributors establishes a strong sense of place.
For older cineastes elements of pics like Duel and North By Northwest may be recalled while fine support is offered up by Eivand Sander, Reider Sorensen, and Julie Olgaard as a goofy colleague, a tenacious cop, and a bereft, dumped former paramour, respectively.
The darker elements around a harried guy get a little wild and one scene in particular may make viewers a bit queasy - a revolting refuge to foil a pursuer - while the filmmaking connects it all with some sharp set pieces involving a dog, a truck and the lifting of artwork during business hours. But, the strange convolutions don't really impel Headhunters off the rails with the possibility of tiny bugs set in one's hair. A heady script combined with a solid sense of pacing plots against stereotyping albeit the machinations implicit from the foxy finish still resonates has a Scandinavian unstoppable slickness and a rangy man-on-the-run imperiled (head-shaved) Hennie whom its rather exciting to be hanging along with.