Monday night, April 30, 2012, at the Newport Beach Film Festival proved to be fairly worthwhile, as I was able to see a fairly entertaining thriller. This was the Norwegian film Headhunters, which felt, in a lot of ways, like a nice follow up to other recent trashy thrillers such as Limitless or even The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (when referring the basic plot of that film). Headhunters is not so much a film that has deeper meanings as it is a film that simply sets up some key characters and lets various amounts of suspense and action follow suit. The film has some tonal issue, as the thrilling nature of the film is counterbalanced by some over-the-top elements, but for the most part, Headhunters is a pretty entertaining (and violent) way to spend a couple hours.
The film stars Askel Hennie as Roger Brown. Roger’s profession is a headhunter, who is looking to find the perfect candidates to become a part of the corporation he represents. Roger also moonlights as an art thief, in order to cover his expenses and keep himself and his oblivious wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) living a fairly high class lifestyle. During the opening of Diana’s first art gallery in Oslo, Roger meets Clas Greve (Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Clas is a former soldier and, until recently, a successful senior manager at a corporation that rivals Roger’s own place of business. These various facts make Clas very qualified to be recruited by Roger. The biggest kicker is that Clas is also in possession of a very rare painting, which Roger could easily help himself to, once he has the chance.
Roger has been having financial issues as of late, so stealing the painting from Clas is definitely a priority, but upon doing so, Roger discovers something very alarming. With little time to really process what is going on, Roger finds himself in some serious trouble and is forced to go on the run, with not much hope in trusting anyone around him. All he wanted to do was support himself and his wife, but Roger is going to have to use all of his cunning, if he ever wants to continue on with his desired lifestyle.
I hate being so vague in the twist that occur, but the film did well by me for not completely telegraphing how it was going to play out in the early goings. I knew that the film was a thriller to some extent, but the way the plot unfolds was done so in a fairly entertaining way, as the thrilling aspect is essentially thrust upon Roger and the audience, with little warning beforehand. Once the plot really kicks into gear, the film rarely lets up and instead has Roger basically suffering for a large portion of the film. The man gets beat up in all sorts of ways, with only his fairly clever mind working to get him out of some pretty crazy situations.
On the whole, this story is not very deep. Headhunters is based on a book by popular Norwegian author Jo Nesbø, which seems to have taken a cue from various other pulpy crime novels of the past. It sets up the characters, some various pieces of information that may or may not be important down the road, and then provides various thrilling scenarios for Roger. That said, there was a good amount of creativity and solid filmmaking at work to keep the film moving and myself engaged in the action. Some bumps here or there in how to make some of the action-type scenarios more watchable, but I did admire the way Roger was forced into a number of do or die situations.
The film itself is never overly serious, which is reflected in the way the film bounces around some extremely violent scenarios with a filmmaking style that almost revels in the way the over-the-top nature of some of the thrills takes hold. I could not help but think at times that the film was one of most violent live-action cartoons imaginable. Headhunters is ostensible a chase film, with Roger on the run and in hiding for a large portion of the runtime, but the extent to which he needs to get out of precarious situations is at times almost too ridiculous, with moments that are resolved through pure luck.
One thing that really worked for me in this film was Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. The blond, Danish actor was solid in the role that requires him to essentially only speak when he has to (and when he does, he’s actually pretty charming), but provide plenty of menace in the way his role plays out. While Roger is basically a really lucky (and occasionally very clever) dweeb, Coster-Waldau’s Clas is a man on a mission, who has the know how to accomplish his goals. I also appreciated the humor that came from the character Ove (Eivind Sander), Roger’s crime partner in the art theft world, who brought some lightness early on to the film.
Headhunters is a fine thriller overall. It manages to be quite violent and stirs some tensions in various moments, but is entertaining to watch. If one were to step back and think about how some of the twists in the story would work from a logical perspective, there is the chance that one could be less impressed with it, but I was caught up in the moment enough to not really focus too hard on the various and inherent flaws in a story built around many plot reversals. The film is plenty fine in being a fun enough chase thriller.
Click on the poster to visit the Newport Beach Film Festival website, and be sure to check back to Why So Blu throughout the week for more of my coverage of the festival!
Here is the trailer for Headhunters: