Offbeat and engaging

JAMES CROOT
Last updated 17:09 02/03/2012
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REVIEW: Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) may have bitten off more than he can chew in Headhunters.

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The Press movie reviewer James Croot gives Headhunters four stars.



He might be small in stature (168cm), but Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) prides himself on his big reputation.

A corporate headhunter, he claims to have never given a client advice they haven't followed and promises candidates that they will quintinple their income in just two years.

And on the face of it his home life seems just as prosperous. Married to beautiful art gallery owner Diana (Synnove Macody Lund), he lives in a state-of-the-art Oslo home.

But behind the fascade, Roger hides a dark secret, and it's not just his mistress Lotte (Julie Olgaard). Via his interviews, Roger is able to ascertain a corporate executive's home life, upcoming whereabouts and, most importantly, the extent of their art collection.

Armed with this knowledge and a corruptible security expert, Rogers then plots a daring raid to relieve them of their prized works, replacing them with cheap copies and selling off the originals offshore for a handsome return before the former owner even knows they've been "duped".

However, business hasn't been as brisk for Roger lately, his last score didn't even help pay off his latest house installment. So when he hears that there's a Dutch GPS technology CEO in town, on the lookout for a new role and in possession of a Rubens thought lost in World War II, Roger jumps at the chance to get to know him better.

But as he's about to painfully discover, Roger may have this time bitten off more than he can chew.

Based on the 2008 novel of the same name by former Norweign footballer, turned rock star and acclaimed author Jo Nesbo, Headhunters is a darkly comic thriller filled with memorable moments, hidden depths and unexpected twists.

While the inital scenes echo TV's Dexter, almost right down to the Latin-infused beats, director Morten Tyldum's film opens out into an original and pacy plot that draws together elements inspired by the likes of The Thomas Crown Affair, The Ax and Mr and Assassins.

Possessing a liberal Scandanavian approach to nudity and violence, Headhunters features several references to those "other" literary inspired films from the region - it even "borrows" footage from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

However, unlike those sombre, sober films from their Eastern neighbours, this tale is infused with the same strain of Norwegian black, oddball humour which elevated the likes of Troll Hunter and  Rare Exports above their genre trappings.

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Amongst the existential angst and our hero's growing paranoia, look out for a security guard who conducts naked shootouts with his Russian "ladyfriend", a terrifically tense staredown and a squirm-inducing toilet scene the equal of Danny Boyle's twin efforts in Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting combined.

An uncredited driving, urgent score, underlines the film's developing tension, while the Christopher Walken-esque Hennie (Max Manus) makes for an offbeat and engaging leading man.

Throw in a clever, clever climax and Headhunters is a thriller well worth seeking out.

In Norwegian with English subtitles. (R16)

- © Fairfax NZ News

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