Monday, 10 June 2013


“Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.” - Lao Tzu
There have been some wonderful films out of the Scandinavian countries in the last few years and they have been refreshingly original, although often confronting and sometimes unpleasant to watch as they are raw and violent. We saw another of these films at the weekend, Morten Tyldum’s 2011 film “Headhunters” based on the novel by Jo Nesbø, and starring Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Synnøve Macody Lund. No, the film is not about Amazonian primitive tribes hunting for heads to shrink, but rather it is about a man who works in an employment recruitment agency and who lives beyond his means – this of course, gets him into all sorts of trouble.

I should warn the faint-hearted that this film is extremely violent and contains some very gruesome scenes. This is often the case with many of these films (I am reminded of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) with the violence depicted, although excessive and unpleasant, forms an integral part of the plot. So it is with “Headhunters”, one of these new wave Norwegian films.
The plot revolves around Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), who is one of the most powerful headhunters in a top employment agency in Norway. He has an extravagant lifestyle, a beautiful wife and an expensive mortgage. To support his lifestyle of the rich and famous he is also a part-time art thief, which he does in cahoots with his friend, the gun aficionado Ove Kjikerud, who work in a security company. Once they rob the art works, they replace the originals with forgeries, which go undetected at least until the trail back to the thieves goes cold. Brown is cool, calm and collected and he works hard to build a reputation as a top professional. However, this masks his insecurities, fuelled by his short stature at 1.68 metres.
Roger Brown feels that wealth and power are the only way to make his mark in the world and to get what he wants. He has a trophy wife, the beautiful art gallery owner Diana Brown (Synnøve Macody Lund). Roger seems to like the thought of what Diana represents more than Diana herself and he denies her what she most wants – a baby. Brown also he has a mistress on the side named Lotte. Diana introduces her husband to Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a successful and handsome businessman. Clas Greve seems to be the perfect candidate for the CEO position at Pathfinder, a high tech company, for which Roger is currently recruiting.
Greve is also in possession of a priceless Rubens, which if Roger and Ove can steal, would be by far their most lucrative art theft to date. Although Brown and Kjikerud steal the painting without hitch, things start going wrong for Roger. He find out that Diana is having an affair with Greve and that someone is trying to kill him. He learns that it is Greve, who seems to know his every move. The remainder of the film is a cat and mouse game with Brown and Greve crossing swords and secrets being uncovered...
Both Aksel Hennie and Nicolai Coaster-Waldau are perfectly cast and Synnøve Macody Lund does a good job in her debut-role. The rest of the cast is excellent in supporting roles and the direction is faultless, as one would expect of someone of Morten Tyldum’s stature. The editing is wonderful and punchy and the action rolls on relentlessly, keeping the viewer on tenterhooks throughout the length of the movie. Upon its release, the film was sold to over 50 countries - a record for any Norwegian film. Summit Entertainment bought the rights to produce an American remake of this film, even before its initial release. This seems a pity, given the calibre of the original.
We enjoyed the film, although as I said earlier, the violence is quite confronting and some of the scenes are quite gruesome. The morals of the story (and especially the ending) may be questioned by the puritan viewer, however, there are quite fundamental transformations that occur in the characters, the message being that redemption is not beyond the reach of any of us, not even the most hardened criminal. If you can stomach raw and violent scenes on screen, watch the movie and you will be enthralled.

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