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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Aksel Hennie
Nikolaj coster-Waldau
Synnøve Macody Lund.
Directors
Morten Tyldum.
Screenwriters
Lars Gudmestad
Ulf Ryberg.
Running Time
100 minutes

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Headhunters
Norwegian Psycho


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Plot
Norwegian Roger Brown (Hennie) works as a headhunter, scouting potential applicants for executive jobs, but also executes high- end art robberies. Danish Clas Greve (Coster-Waldau) has the qualifications for a post Brown needs to fill and has just inherited a Rubens, so Brown targets him — only to discover Greve is a different type of headhunter.


Review
Headhunters
Norwegian author Jo Nesbo’s novel Headhunters has been an international bestseller, and is already set to be remade by Hollywood. Indeed, the material seems designed to play well outside the currently hot bubble of Scandinavian thriller cinema and TV (look for Julie R. Ølgaard, the murdered Nanna Birk Larsen in the original Danish version of The Killing, in a crucial film noir mystery woman role). International aspirations are obvious, even down to the protagonist’s absurdly accent-free Anglo name: how many Norwegians are called Roger Brown? That said, it’s still an off-beat, thoroughly gripping crime picture.

At first, this is as much character study as thriller, with lovely haired narrator Roger (Aksel Hennie, from that Sean Bean/Danny Dyer World War II quickie Age Of Heroes) admitting that insecurity about his average height compels him to steal paintings in an attempt to hang on to his glamorous, out-of-his-league wife, Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund). We see how Roger’s magazine layout life is set up, with an expensive home he doesn’t even like, and the deft system he has for stealing artwork. For a while, the film verges on becoming a ‘how to’ manual for those in these recessionary times considering a career in high-end burglary, full of fascinating tips about how to get away with it. Evidently, you shouldn’t waste too much time on getting a proper forgery to hang in place of the picture you’re stealing since a reasonable photocopy will pass muster in the dark long enough for you to make a getaway and dispose of the original on the black market.

Then, Roger runs into Clas (ruggedly handsome Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, of Game Of Thrones), an IT surveillance high-flyer who seems exactly the sort of prize guy Diana will leave him for, and resolves to relieve him of the Rubens which has showed up in his aunt’s attic. Only it turns out that before he was a corporate suit, Clas was a counter-terrorist operative prone to going off the reservation to bring down his targets, with a shadow agenda which isn’t likely to pan out well for anyone who crosses him. This leads to an escalating nightmare which finds the smooth criminal literally dunked in shit — as well as forced to shave off his hair for grotesquely high-tech reasons — when it turns out someone is now hunting his head, and not metaphorically.

Though Roger is scarcely likable, the film does get caught up in his escalating troubles as his perfect, amoral life is ripped apart piece by piece and he is hunted across the open country by cops and killers. There’s a decent enough puzzle inside the survival/endurance test plot, and director Morten Tyldum manages to cope with a great deal of the business involving complicated clues which can clutter up adaptations of crime novels. There are doses of the old ultra-violence — sometimes darkly comical, as when it turns out that being sandwiched between obese twin cops in the back of a car during a horrific crash is the only thing that keeps Roger alive long enough to seek revenge. The film begins in a monied, safe-seeming city and then heads out into the countryside, where the cold and a hostile nature are as much a threat to the anti-hero as the official and unofficial forces intent on tracking him down and polishing him off.


Verdict
A slick thriller which takes place in a moral vacuum. It’s fascinating rather than exciting, but makes for chilly thrills with two strong, charismatic lead performances, a great deal of style and amusingly repulsive, ruthless twists.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Headhunters
Empire Star Rating

RE: GO ALONG WITH THE MADNESS.....

Very much in the same vein as Shallow Grave (and possibly Fargo) in terms of tone, I thought. Clever, ridiculous, darkly comic and never a dull moment. The fuse on this burns for the first 20 minutes or so, setting the scene, building some tension...and then it shoots off in a not entirely predictable direction at a frantic pace. Very entertaining. ... More

Posted by Vitamin F at 10:44, 03 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: GO ALONG WITH THE MADNESS.....

Noticed that this was out on DVD now. Well worth checking out - a black comedy more than a serious drama, Headhunters is just a couple of steps up from a TV movie but is still worth a watch. One of the more fun cinema experiences I have had this year. ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 10:59, 23 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: GO ALONG WITH THE MADNESS.....

What a film what an experience so glad I had the chance to see it at my local arts centre and at 2pm on a thurs afternoon was so pleased to see it virtually full. Has a plot that moves like a rocket with despicable characters who are marvellously sketched it's just deliriously entertaining from start to end. One just knows from the minute you meet Roger he's going to be on the recieving end of many bad things! Ho Ho and isn't he just! So so clever it's definetly a 4 star film and a must... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Magenta at 10:12, 21 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE: GO ALONG WITH THE MADNESS.....

Loved it ! never a dull moment ! the guy that played Roger gave a great performance, I thought he looked like steve buscemi AND Christopher walken which is no bad thing !! ... More

Posted by donethinking at 10:42, 25 April 2012 | Report This Post


GO ALONG WITH THE MADNESS.....

and you'll experience one of the better films of the year. The second half seemed to push credibility toward the end as all the loose ends were neatly tied, but it's a hell of a ride. Can't forget how much like Chris Walken the lead bastard looked like and how someone could survive in all that shit ( I shall say no more) is beyond me. Russian prostitutes seem to be quite wild and entertaining even if they do interupt at the most inopportune moments. All in all - a solid FOUR STAR EXPERIENCE!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 14:44, 21 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Headhunters

Good solid thriller, worth 4 stars every day of the week. Even the wife enjoyed it! (dogs and shit notwithstanding). ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by GCH at 17:04, 20 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE:

I was far more reminded of Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Quantum of Solace). Very good film, this. ... More

Posted by thedrin at 09:26, 20 April 2012 | Report This Post


oops, accidently said Max Manus looks like Steve Buscemi, when I meant Aksel Hennie (the guy playing Roger). My bad. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by freyar_88 at 11:49, 16 April 2012 | Report This Post


This was DEFINITELY a 5 star film.

It had everything - great cast (Jaime Lannister! I mean, NCW. Also, does anyone else see similarities between Max Manus and Steve Buscemi? Go watch it, you'll know what I mean.), stylish direction, an outstanding plot which kept you on your toes. It is unlike any action thriller I've ever seen - just so original, comical one moment, heart-stopping the next. I haven't enjoyed a film so much in a long time. Hollywood, take note. Instead of the next generic Jason Statham movie, go and see Headhunte... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by freyar_88 at 10:19, 16 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: One star missing

Very decent nuts & bolts thriller that again shows Hollywood how they should be doing it. Fairly contrived, but certainly never dull - and the tractor scene is surprisingly hilarious. ice to see the Kings Slayer pop up in it as well... ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 15:48, 12 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: One star missing

L: film man aidy Leicester is nearest to me, t starts tomorrow for 2 weeks at The Phoenix. I shall be going next week after the positive reviews above ... More

Posted by jonson at 10:12, 12 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: One star missing

L: film man aidy Leicester is nearest to me, t starts tomorrow at Phoenix for the next 2 weeks. Will be going next week after the positive reviews above ... More

Posted by jonson at 10:11, 12 April 2012 | Report This Post


More an Absurdist black comedy....

than a thriller, I thought.The poop,dead dog, tractor scene was hilarious! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by papalupara at 08:08, 12 April 2012 | Report This Post


More an Absurdist black comedy....

than a thriller, I thought.The poop,dead dog, tractor scene was hilarious! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by papalupara at 08:08, 12 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: One star missing

L: Filmfan 2 I was engrossed right the way through, and the plot comes together wonderfully at the end, with things that were set-up early in the film all getting paid off nicely later on. Highly recommended indeed. dn't agree more, loved it! ... More

Posted by Hobbitonlass at 22:10, 11 April 2012 | Report This Post


Coulda been so simple

Really enjoyed Headhunters, it was great a piece of "Why is this shit happening to me?" cinema. However it did leave me thinking that they could have gone about it in a much more civilised way avoiding all the unnecessary bloodshed. *Spoiler Alert*ish If it was all about corporate espionage worth billions of dollars and not the painting (which they had no idea he was an art thief) why didn't they just offer him a pay off. Roger was obviously a guy of questionable moral standing, he p... More

Posted by Popcorn Required at 22:05, 11 April 2012 | Report This Post


Fantastic!!

Wow, what a great film from the great opening to the several iconic moments throughout (you'll know them when you get there!), could not agree more with those asking where the other star is from Empire!! Was nice to see the cinema packed when I went, restoring my faith in the more discerning cinema goer. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rougier at 16:34, 09 April 2012 | Report This Post


Laugh out loud, hands over face funny in parts but extremely enjoyable. 4 stars is about right. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by redman at 19:44, 07 April 2012 | Report This Post


Head and Shoulders Above!

Definitely one of the classiest thrillers of the year - exciting, a bonkers mad streak of black humour - not too many films where you get a car chase involving a tractor! Yet again, Scandinavia produces a refreshing twist in the thriller genre. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by vipey at 17:11, 07 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: One star missing

Superb film, and I feel sorry for the neds sat near me who left within three minutes of the film coming on because 'I'm no wanting to sit reading a screen for two hours'; they missed a gripping thriller. I was engrossed right the way through, and the plot comes together wonderfully at the end, with things that were set-up early in the film all getting paid off nicely later on. Highly recommended indeed. ... More

Posted by Filmfan 2 at 16:07, 07 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: One star missing

Am really looking foward to this, but am struggling to find a showing anywhere. It has commited the crime of being subtitled, so basically, none of the multiplexes want to show it. I think will should all name and shame our local cinemas accordingly. Leicester is nearest to me, and bearing in mind that the Showcase(12), Vue(9) and Odeon(12 ) have a collective of 33 screens between them, it's a pretty poor show that they can't squeeze any showings in. ... More

Posted by film man aidy at 00:52, 06 April 2012 | Report This Post


One star missing

Watched this last night - it was superb! Put another star on it Empire....tight arses. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by juangaz at 10:11, 04 April 2012 | Report This Post


Very funny, exciting, not one bit where i felt bored ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by baileyp at 20:56, 03 April 2012 | Report This Post


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