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August 28, 2012

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On DVD/Blu-ray – Review: Headhunters (2011)

by NIR SHALEV

A slew of terrific films have come from Scandinavia in the past few years, films such as Let the Right One In (2008) and Troll Hunter (2010). Now comes Headhunters, a neat thriller with a tight script. It treats its characters as people from the get-go, and that way, the audience can relate to them more easily.

Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie, Max Manus: Man of War) is a headhunter who’s currently recruiting a CEO for a large corporation named Pathfinder. He is short in stature but has married the beautiful, tall, and blond Diana in order to compensate for his insecurities. Outside his day job he steals paintings and replaces them with forgeries to support his and his wife’s expensive lifestyle.

One day, Roger’s introduced to the tall and handsome Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, HBO’s Game of Thrones) and finds that he’d be perfect for the CEO position. But after stealing a painting from his home, one that could potentially take care of his finances for the remainder of his life, he finds out that Diana is having an affair with Clas and that Clas is a different kind of headhunter. That’s when things turn sour.

What began as a traditional story about an egotistic thief turns into a battle for survival by a man who is remarkably out of his element. As the film progresses all of the happenings turn worse by the minute. It’s thrilling, it’s well paced, it’s smart, and somehow Roger seems relatable.

Headhunter’s best qualities are the screenplay and the terrific and realism-fueled performance by Hennie. His character is the most developed, and eventually, is entirely sympathetic. As his life takes several turns for the worse the audience feels bad for Roger, like it would towards the traditional film noir anti-hero, and that’s because his character has plenty of room to grow. And he does. He learns from his mistakes and becomes a better person. Everything in his life was superficial up to a point and once he realizes how cruel life can be he also realizes why his previous character was a bad egg. There’s a lot to like about this film.

I don’t know what it is about Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish filmmakers but their screenplays really know how to focus on the human condition and also how to properly develop their characters. Let the Right One In is one of the best films that deal with the topics of childhood and the loss of innocence. Farther back, Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957) needs no introduction from me; neither does any other film Bergman’s directed. I am very impressed with the films that have come out of those countries (Drive (2011) also comes to mind) and I look forward to the next Scandinavian thriller.

Headhunters is available on DVD and Blu-ray. Special features are a making-of and the trailer.

Other new releases this week: Battleship, Darling Companion, The Lucky One, Monsieur Lazhar, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Think Like a Man


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Aug 28 2012

    I was really looking forward to seeing this after it showed up on the “coming soon” page of the local Landmark theater, but disappointingly it never played (sadly they get my hopes up like that fairly often).

    You left out THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO on your Scandi thriller list. The success of which was presumably responsible for HEADHUNTERS getting picked up for (albeit very limited) North American distribution.

  2. Aug 29 2012

    You’re right! I did forget about the original GWTDT! It’s a great film! The second film is just good and the third, while it neatly ties everything together, is only a pretty good film. As for the remake… I don’t hate it. It’s terrifically well shot, lit, and acted and Fincher was the right director for it but after Zodiac it’ll be damn near impossible for him to one-up himself.

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