Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Headhunters (2011)

Having decided to go to the movies, the choice was between the above Norwegian film which has been attracting rave reviews and the new modern horror "Cabin in the Woods".  For various reasons "Headhunters" won the toss, since I have a sneaking feeling that "Cabin" will prove to be less 'smart' than it thinks it is.  Anyhow, being the newer release, we can probably catch up with it next week if we still feel so inclined.

Scandinavian mysteries and dramas have been having a good run here, starting with "Wallander" and of course the Stieg Larsson trilogy, and taking in "The Killing" (not the U.S. remake), "Borgen", and the new "Bridge".  I must confess to not yet having read anything by the author Jo Nesbo on whose thriller the above film is based, but if his writing is anything near as exciting as this film version, it seems well worth pursuing.  The hero of the tale, with the very English-sounding name of Roger Brown, is a corporate head-hunter, played by Aksel Hennie -- a slightly weaselly-looking young Christopher Walken.  He suffers from something of a Napoleon complex by being over-sensitive about his less than average height and compensates by spoiling his extremely tall, blonde Amazon of a wife Diana.  To supplement his earnings from the employment agency, he indulges in a sideline of art thefts to subsidise their extravagant life style. All she really wants from him is a baby, but he procrastinates fearing that she would love any child more than him.

Into their lives comes corporate big-shot Clas Greve, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (the spitting image of Aaron Eckhart), a Dane who has sold his Dutch-based surveillance corporation and who has inherited his grandmother's Oslo flat.  He tells Brown's wife that his inheritance includes a missing Rubens stolen by the Nazis during World War II and given to granny by an old lover  This is far too big a temptation for Brown and his  low-life accomplice, thinking that one big score will set them up permanently -- and so a trap is set, since Greve, it transpires, has other fish to fry.  Add to the equation evidence that the Dane has also been enjoying sexual trysts with Diana.  Brown's paranoia escalates when he finds his sidekick 'dead' in his car, pierced by a poisoned syringe obviously intended for him; however when he tries to dispose of the body in a nearby lake, the live 'corpse' bounces back to the surface.  From this point to the film's final denouement we are treated to 'edge-of-one's-seat' excitement, as the crafty Greve murderously pursues his prey.  Meanwhile our poor anti-hero Brown is subjected to a variety of degradations including being covered all over by the contents of a disgusting outhouse, being savaged by a scary dog, being framed for a murder he did not commit, and surviving a crash off a cliff engineered by the wily Dane.  Greve seems to be everywhere he turns and he no longer knows whom to trust.  The fascinating part of this chase is that one reluctantly begins rooting for the little worm to win; dislike becomes sympathy.

The story is full of unexpected twists and turns and the viewer, like Brown, does not know whom to trust.  Is Diana in cahoots with her lover?  Is Brown's own rejected mistress part of the plot?  Can one determined man outwit a highly-trained and resourceful villain?  While one could argue that one or two bits of the plot don't quite hold together, the film that directer Morten Tyldum has crafted is a tightly-knit entertainment and one well worth viewing.  But do it fast before the inevitable Hollywood remake; Mark Wahlberg has bought the rights and like "The Killing", I fear it will be a very different animal   
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