Sunday, 1 April 2012
Following in the footsteps of Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo is the latest Scandinavian literary phenomenon to sweep the murder mystery genre and yet again turning it on its head with bleak Nordic landscapes, mind boggling plot twists and a memorable protagonist in the form of Detective Harry Hole. With The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Wallander proving amazing hits with the USA and Europe, it was only a matter of time before someone took all this and turned it into a big screen adaptation. However, before Martin Scorsese brings Harry Hole to the cinema sometime in the next couple of years, some folks in Nesbo's native country of Norway opted to to adapt his lesser known and seemingly utterly terrific stand alone thriller, Headhunters (Hodejegenre).
Starring Aksel Hennie, the film tells the tale of corporate headhunter Roger Brown, an insecure and desperate man who resorts to stealing works of art to provide for his wife's expensive tastes in life. Upon a chance encounter at the opening of his beautiful wife's new art gallery, he goes on one last heist for a piece of art belonging to a mysterious ex-marine by the name of Clas Greve (Game of Thrones' own Jamie Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) which is thought to be worth hundreds of millions of krones. Unsurprisingly when the heist goes wrong and Roger stumbles onto a bigger plot, which results in a deathly chase on his own life, the film desecnds into an action packed journey of total, utter carnage the stuff of which Nicolas Winding Refn would be proud of.
Where Headhunters proves to be one of the stand out releases in the cinema, so far this year, is in its completely seamless merging of various sub-genres. It opens almost as this strange caper parody, where this suave businessman who loves his wife just goes on a To Catch A Thief-esque night life of stealing glorious pieces of art and sleeping with his mistress then coming back to his mundane job in the morning. Yet curiously as the film progresses and plot twists are revealed all over the place, the film morphs into this smartly written, no holds barred action film full of pretty mental violence and intense car chases...with a tractor...and an unfortunate end to a dog. But anyway...
From the same company, Yellow Bird, that brought the original Wallander series and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo adaptations, one of the most telling things about Headhunters is how the money generated from the success of the previous two franchises has clearly reaped dividends in this superior, clearly bigger budget feature.The production quality was just lifted to a much more measured and mature level, with some terrific pacing and slick story-telling.
The quality of actors was also evident, with Hennie proving to be an endearing lead as the protagonist, while Coster-Waldau plays a role not unlike his devious, backstabbing, complex, silent assassin persona of Jamie Lannister in the excellent Game of Thrones, as the villain of the piece Clas Greve. Special mention must go to the blonde beauty of Synnove Macody as Roger's wife Diane and Eivind Sander as Roger's partner in crime, the utterly bonkers, gun and prostitute obsessed Ove.
If you didn't know Jo Nesbo from constantly seeing his books on the shelves of Waterstones, then you'll undoubtedly have your interest peaked after seeing this highly charged, genre-bending, carnage inspiring, action packed example of a film in Headhunters. It has action, intensity, a lot of really creditable black humour and some terrific performances and a few really choice moments which will give the more risque moments of films like Drive a run for their money. The Scandinavian invasion continues. Hunt it out right now. Well, what are you waiting for?
Headhunters is in selected cinemas throughout the UK from April 6th, 2012.