Scandinavia is ‘in’ right now. For the past couple of years, audiences have been besieged by numerous TV crime dramas such as The Killing and Wallander, while the silver screen has seen the emergence of the Stieg Larsson franchise the ‘Millenium‘ trilogy. Wooly jumpers, inexplicably angular features and glib criminality are the new black. Or should that be icy grey.
The latest sensation being heralded is Jo Nesbo, whose novel has been adapted for the screen here. The story follows Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), a slick ‘headhunter’ who seems to have it all, with a beautful wife named Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) and a flashy minimalist apartment. Quite why a Norwegian man is called Roger Brown is anyone’s guess, but pretty much standard fare for this film. His wife, an exhibition curator of sorts, demands a lavish lifestyle, and more pressingly a child. In order to sate these needs, Roger has a rather far fetched sideline as an art thief. Well, these are tough economic times.
In the first scene we observe Roger stealing into an apartment and helping himself to a valuable painting on the way out. Mildly intriguing, but isn’t this just Hustle with sharper cheekbones? The plot clicks into gear with a meeting with Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a prospective new partner for Roger’s legitimate company. Handsome and smarmy, Clas has designs on Diana and furthermore, an extremely rare German painting lurking in his apartment. I could be wrong here, but I think we may have found our antagonist.
Inevitably Roger conspires to steal the painting, but when his accomplice in the dastardly deed is found near deaths door, things start to get a bit Jackson Pollock. Clas, it so happens, is a deadly ex-army tracker, and so ensues a game of cat and mouse. Frankly, this is a very silly and uneven film. While the first half errs towards a slick, but ultimately humdrum corporate heist thriller, the second half veers wildly towards Coen-esque absurdist hijinks. It is this section which saves the film from banality, particularly a bizarre sequence featuring a tractor, an impaled dog and lashings of excrement. Possibly the wildest and most fun scene I’ve witnessed so far this year.
To be fair, Headhunters is fairly entertaining, and Aksel Hennie provides an empathetic character with a good line in puppy dog eyes. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau also fares well as the slimy Clas, but make no mistake, this is not high drama. The direction by Morten Tyldum is efficient and the pacy editing moves the film along quickly. The projects downfall is probably down to the source material more than anything, a fairly silly concoction to start with.