Headhunters * * * * 1/2

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Director: Morten Tyldum
Screenplay: Lars Gudmstead, Ulf Ryberg.
Starring: Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Synnove Macody Lund, Eivind Sander, Julie Olgaard, Kyrre Haugen Sydness, Reidar Sorenson, Nils Jorgen Kaalstad, Joachim Rafaelsen, Mats Mogeland.

Do you ever tire of hearing that a Hollywood remake is in the pipeline, when the ink has hardly dried on the original script? Like “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo“, “Cell 211” and “Let The Right One In” before it, this is another that has had the green light for an English language version. It’s easy to see why there would be interest in this as it’s an exceptionally good thriller. I just don’t see why it’s necessary to have it redone.

Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a high-flying businessman who works as a headhunter. He scouts potential applicants for executive jobs. While interviewing them, he learns very useful information that leads him to his second source of income: a sideline in executing valuable art robberies. His extravagant and expensive lifestyle can’t be funded by his headhunting job alone. One particular interviewee is Clas Greve (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau). He has all the credentials for a post that Brown needs to fill but he also has just inherited a piece of art that will cure all of Brown’s financial woes – if he can just get his hands on it. As it turns out though, this art theft is not as simple as his previous ones and Greve is not as buttoned up as he makes out.

As this film opens we are introduced to unlikely leading actor Aksel Hennie who has an appearance that resembles the love child of Christopher Walken and Steve Buscemi. He’s not your average leading man and his character is not that appealing either. He’s a self-centred weasel of a man that seems to lack any morals but you know that things are, not entirely, going to go to plan for this scheming, double-crossing thief and that’s exactly what captures your attention and provides the hook in this adaptation of Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo’s novel. Director Morten Tyldum is wise enough to play his cards when he needs them and wrings out the suspense, masterfully, at every turn. He mounts the tension slowly before staging one gripping scene after another. The unpredictability of the spiralling plot delivers genuine excitement, helped immeasurably by natural characters and performers. Hennie in particular, is absolutely brilliant and will no doubt become a household name after this (apparently he already is, in his native Norway). Kudos to screenwriters Lars Gudmstead and Ulf Ryberg. It’s their tight, deliberately paced and unpredictable script that keeps you guessing and shows a good level of intelligence. Admittedly, I haven’t read the novel but if I were author Jo Nesbo – whose next page to screen transfer will be “The Snowman“, directed by Martin Scorsese – I’d be very proud of the job that has been done here.

When the headhunter becomes the headhunted, this film grips like a vice and refuses to let go. I’ve seen quite a few film’s from Scandinavia over recent years and have been very impressed with the high standard they are delivering. This is no exception and a thriller that will definitely compete with the best of the year.

Mark Walker

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26 Responses to “Headhunters * * * * 1/2”

  1. Well I have never heard of this. But now I am eager to see this. Excellent review.

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  2. I really loved this film! I wrote a reveiw about it last autumn (link here since I know you don’t mind http://thevelvetcafe.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/my-snow-angel-for-headhunters/).

    I loved the mix between thrills and excitement and some very dark humor. It was also a great journey you did with this main character. He was a pretty horrible person initially, but you ended up liking him since the other guy was so much worse.

    I agree completely about how unnessary it is to do a remake. But I think it’s pretty much inevitable. 😦

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    • Brilliant film Jessica. I was on edge throughout. I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t turn out the best thriller of the year. Glad you enjoyed also. I’ll have a look at your review as soon as I can.

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  3. I purchased Snowman when I heard about Scorsese attaching himself to the project but this film sounds amazing as well. Gonna have to check it out!

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  4. Great review. Wacthed the trailer the other day and I loved it. Looks so cool and exciting. Had no idea there were plans for an American remake (same goes for Celda 211). I’m not completely against these remakes, though, I prefered Let Me In over the Swedish one. And I loved both versions of Dragon Tattoo.

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    • Admittedly, I actually liked Let Me In but I’ve avoided the dragon Tattoo remake so far. I loved the original. Yeah, Paul Haggis is involved in the remake of Cell 211. It just seems that Hollywood is running a little dry these days.

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  5. Not seen this yet, but has been on my radar. there has been some fantastic international thriller particularly from scandinavia, i loved troll hunter, let the right one in and the girl with the dragon tattoo. insomnia was original Norwegian so it’s a well tapped vein. would really love to see a troll hunter remake even though it probably doesn’t need one!

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    • Troll Hunter is one that’s due a remake also. I should have mentioned that. I forgot all about that. Great film’s, all of them but I tend to always prefer the original. Headhunters will definitely be hard to beat.

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  6. I am very much a fan of all things Scandinavian. From flat packed furniture to TV to Film. Headhunters is brilliant, funny, dark and exciting.

    I loved the dog va tractor scene!!

    Great write up matey

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  7. I really want to see this for one main reason: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau 😀

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    • It’s a really good film Ruth and Nicolaj is great in it. Speaking of which, I just finished the first season of Game of Thrones tonight. I’m very impressed and totally hooked.

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  8. I am glad to read another positive review of this one. I’ve been interested since I saw the first trailer. Hope to catch it soon.

    as for the proposed remake…well, I see your point, but some worked out real well: TGWTDT and Let Me In. They do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I guess that’s true.

    Nice review Mark! Thank you for sharing. I can’t wait to see it.

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    • It’s a great film man. Well worth checking out. I agree on the Let Me In remake, I have to say. I’m surprised it was as good as it turned out to be. The Dragon Tattoo remake, I’ve avoided though so can’t comment on that. I think I’ll wait till all three are done. If that ever happens. I’m sure it will though. Thanks for stopping by.

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  9. I actually recently stumbled across this movie on an IMDb walkabout (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau plays Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones so that’s how I found it) and I’d definitely like to check it out whenever I can.

    I just started my own movie review blog about a week ago and it’s great to see so many other bloggers out there with similar interests. Anyways here’s mine if you’d like to check it out and leave any feedback 🙂

    http://rorschachreviews.com/

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  10. Paragraph Film Reviews Says:

    Christopher Walken and Steve Buscemi – excellent call! Absolutely loved the streak of ultra-black humour that kept it entertaining as well as just gripping. Great story, great acting, great directing – just can’t beat it.

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  11. filmfellahenry Says:

    Nice review man. Have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed Headhunters – I’m glad you recommended it. Was a nice concise, unconvoluted thriller that pretty much ticked all the boxes.

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    • Glad you enjoyed it Henry. It ticked all the boxes for me as well. A great little film that’ll be hard to beat this year. The Nordic lands are fair churning them out.

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  12. “Do you ever tire of hearing that a Hollywood remake is in the pipeline, when the ink has hardly dried on the original script?”

    Can I get an Amen on that?

    If a film needs improving, then perhaps a remake is in order. “Headhunters” is just fine the way it is. I’m glad you mentioned the script which I appreciated for its unpredictability too. Great review!

    (Sometime I think remakes are for people who just don’t want to read subtitles.)

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    • Amen brother!
      This was an outstanding little thriller and one that I don’t see how they can improve upon. You’re right though, remakes tend to be about lack of ideas and lazy viewers, in terms of subtitles.
      I often ask myself why I didn’t quite give it full marks. Maybe that will be remedied on another viewing.
      Nice to hear from you Mark

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  13. ray brayne Says:

    On my top ten for this young year. Nothing in american cinema compares. This does need an english version because no ones seen it here in the states. Foreign films are passe. Boy are people ever missing out! Unrelenting, unforgiving action. A totally adult thinking man’s(women’s) movie. One jaw dropping scene after another. (SPOILER ALERT) I was amazed at how quickly Roger realized Clas was bad assed out to get him. He walked out to his car in the morning in defence mode but Clas had beaten him to it. And the game was on! From the scene where he thinks his partner is dead, the outhouse scene, the farm tractor escape, to the truck barreling down the mountain, I was out of breath. There’s much more of course, suffice to say this is the best Nordic flix since “Millenium” trilogy! Oh, allmost forgot(got excited here), nice review Mark!

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    • Glad you enjoyed Ray. I agree, it’s one of the best film’s of the year so far. I’ve not seen a thriller as intense as this for a long time. The millennium trilogy was great but a bit more slower and methodical. This just grabs you by the juggler. When the game is (literally) afoot there is no let up. A marvellous film that I’m still wondering why I never gave it top marks.

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