Compared to the continent of Europe, the rate of death by guns in America is six times higher. You wouldn’t know it based on the current wave of crime films from that half of the globe. Arguably kicked off by the worldwide success of Sweden’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, the movies of late are generally ballsier and bloodier and, therefore, better.
The craze has reached the inevitable point of Hollywood remakes, and last year’s Headhunters indeed is in the queue for Anglicisation. You can see Norway’s 2011 original Friday and Saturday, as part of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s “North by Noir” series. (Russia’s Elena, showing Thursday through Sunday, is another).
Based on Jo Nesbø’s best-selling novel, Headhunters casts Askel Hennie (Max Manus: Man of War) as Roger Brown, the diminutive but diabolical job recruiter who lives for the almighty dollar — er, krone. The problem is, he doesn’t make enough in his day job to keep up the lavish lifestyle to which he and his trophy wife, Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund, ostensibly the Land of the Midnight Sun’s equivalent to Donna Dixon), have become accustomed.
To supplement, he commits acts of art theft, by replacing valuable works with forgeries. Still, his bank account is overdrawn by several thousand.
Opportunity knocks when Diana offhandedly mentions that an acquaintance of her art gallery, nanotech exec Claus Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, TV’s Game of Thrones), has
inherited a Peter Paul Rubens masterpiece potentially worth nine digits
to the left of the decimal. With a window of a couple of days, Roger
springs into action.
Naturally, the heist is harder than he hopes, and the title suddenly exhibits dual meaning when Roger becomes as much as target as the painting.
The fun of Headhunters is watching events unravel through the film’s darkly comic tone, especially since Roger is not the most likable of protagonists. But stick with it; the final third is rousing, as director Morten Tyldum puts him through the narrative wringer. It’s one stocked with cuckolded characters, at least one unexpected corpse, a high-tech twist, identity switcheroos and a horrific car crash of convenience.
A word of warning: There’s also a outhouse scene so sick, it makes those in Slumdog Millionaire and Schindler’s List smell like roses. That could put viewers off, but hey, as Roger’s credo goes, “If you don’t gamble, you don’t win.”
While imperfect and tied with an ending too pat, Headhunters is an ultimate victor, a slick thriller that demonstrates these United States have no monopoly on evil bastards.