Saturday, 14 April 2012

Headhunters

Lowdown: The life of a head-hunter moonlighting in art theft gets complicated when his two professions collide.
Review:
How often do I get to watch Norwegian films? Come to think of it, did I ever watch a film from Norway? I don’t know, but having watched Headhunters I would definitely like to give this piece of Scandinavia a go. It’s been a while since a thriller managed to feel as authentic while genuinely surprising me with its twists the way Headhunters did, and for that I am grateful.
Roger (Aksel Hennie) is not only short; he’s also not the nicest guy ever. To compensate for his inferiority complex he goes for a glamorous woman by his side, Diana, an artist with exhibitions of hers opening left and right (Synnøve Macody Lund). To ensure Diana sticks with him he throws money at her, money that doesn’t come from his day job as a headhunter but rather money that comes from sophisticated heists of coveted paintings. Art and glamor are not enough for our Roger: he also has a mistress, Lotte (Julie R. Ølgaard), whom he uses and abuses.
Our crafty Roger seems on top of his complicated life. That illusion shatters, however, upon his introduction to Clas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a new arrival from Holland. Not only is Clas perceived as a threat due to his familiarity with Diana, he is also a tall ex commando that seems to fit the job our Roger is currently headhunting for like a glove. One suspicion leads to another and our hero Roger finds himself in the thick of something larger than he ever anticipated. And as complex as the premises may sound, everything ends up connected.
The first thing I noticed about Headhunters was its authenticity. Sure, the plot is more than a bit far fetched; but everything else feels so real one can easily suspend their disbelief. This authenticity presents itself best through various scenes of sex and nudity: unlike what we are used to seeing from Hollywood, these are not choreographed to look like something unearthly. Neither are they choreographed to keep the film’s rating down. They’re just choreographed to look lifelike, and it works. The same level of authenticity applies to the film’s violence: while I wouldn’t present Headhunters to a child there’s nothing to shock an adult with; the trick, however, is in making it feel real. Altogether, quite an achievement if you ask me.
The second thing I noticed as I watched Headhunters is the way the plot twists managed to take my perception of the film as I knew it and twist it this way and then that way repeatedly. When I started watching Headhunters I sort of expected it to go down one path but then it took another; and then another, and later even another. It’s a caper/sting film, but unlike the majority of these it actually works in stinging its viewer.
Upon coupling Headhunters’ authenticity to its originality, the question begging to be asked is why we can’t have more like this one. The answer is sadly obvious: Hollywood, being managed the way it is by bean counters, lacks the will to try and take us further into the realms we are not used to seeing; it much prefers showing us the same film again and again. Frankly, given the costs of film making and marketing, I can’t blame them much. Yet I also cannot avoid concluding that perhaps I should seek my refuge with “foreign” cinema more often than I normally do given its obvious quality edge. In other words, I should not let the mere availability of new Blu-ray releases dictate what I end up watching.
Best scene: I liked the way Headhunters first introduces us to Roger, his stylish and lavish house, and then – panning through to the shower room – his wife as she’s just drying herself after a shower and kisses our [anti] hero. Very flashy, very well done, and able to convey a lot in quite a brief a moment.
Somewhat different yet just as effective is the scene where our hero is forced to hide deep inside a pile of sh*t. I recommend you watch the film to learn more about this.
Overall: Headhunters takes that surprising feeling that came with Anthony Zimmer a step further. It’s a solid thriller deserving 4 out of 5 stars.

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