Headhunters (Hodejegerne)
Made in: Norway
Language: Norwegian
Director: Morten Tyldum
Starring: Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund, Niklaj Coster-Waldau, Eivind Sander, Julie Ølgaard
Year: 2011

Synopsis: Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) owns a huge house, a life full of luxury, and has a tall, gorgeous wife named Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund). At around 5' 6" (or roughly 1.86 meters) tall, he admits that his large lifestyle is overcompensation for his literal and figurative lack of stature.

Despite his skills as a shrewd, sometimes unscrupulous, and powerful corporate headhunter, Roger cannot sustain his lifestyle and is secretly drowning in debt.

To deal with his financial woes, he moonlights as a cat burglar specializing in the theft of expensive paintings. His day job affords him access to wealthy corporate job seekers, and under the cover of asking benign interview questions, Roger gathers data about his clients. Through careful questioning, he finds out where they live, if they own any expensive art...and when they're not home.

Once Roger identifies a mark, his accomplice Ove (Eivind Sander), who works for a security company, disables the victim's burglar alarm.

While attending the grand opening of Diana's art gallery, Roger is introduced to Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the former CEO of a technology company which specializes in experimental GPS tracking devices. Clas is looking to find a new job, and enlists Roger to help.

Roger soon learns that Clas has inherited a painting worth millions, and plots his next burglary. And sensing that Clas has eyes for Diana, Roger is further motivated to screw his new acquaintance by sabotaging Clas' chances of finding a lucrative new employer.

But once the plan is set in motion, Roger finds himself entangled in a violent plot that forces him to run for his life...

The Good: The first half of Headhunters is excellent. The plot set-up is great, and the characters are very vivid. There's an underlying sense of menace and intensity throughout, and there's pretty much no telling how things will go.

The cast is great, led by Aksel Hennie (who resembles a young Christopher Walken or Steve Buscemi, depending on the lighting) who does an amazing job portraying a deeply flawed protagonist.

The action is pretty raw and realistic looking, without a hint of digital effects or overblown stunt work.

The Bad: Unfortunately, the second half of Headhunters doesn't match the superb first half. That's not to say that it's a failure - in and of itself the film keeps the excitement going until the end. But the plot makes a rather awkward transition from psychological thriller to chase movie.

Again, both halves work, but mashing together both sub-genres didn't feel quite right.

Who would like this film: Headhunters is for you if you're into smart thrillers. This one will definitely hold your attention, whether or not you're a fan of foreign films. Some of the action scenes, although creative, are cringe-inducing so I would advise against snacking while viewing this movie.

The plot set-up is great, and overall the story is unpredictable. It's not a perfect film, given its transformation to an almost straight-up action adventure. But it's very bold and is a good example of old-fashioned, solid storytelling.

(3 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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