Yellow Bird Films
Now Showing at: Esquire Theatre
Review by: Larry Thomas
If you relish a good thriller that's chock full of Hitchcockian twists, turns, and paranoia, look no further than the Norwegian entry Headhunters. Based on the 2008 best selling novel in that country, Headhunters stars the talented Aksel Hennie as Roger, a charming scoundrel and Norway's most accomplished corporate headhunter. Roger is living a life of luxury well beyond his means, and stealing art to subsidize his expensive lifestyle. When his beautiful gallery owner wife introduces him to an acquaintance in the possession of an extremely valuable painting, Roger decides to go for the big score. Needless to say, bad move Roger, and now the cat becomes the mouse and the chase is on.
At first glance, Roger seems as if he may be the standard 21st century corporate sleazebag. But as the layers of his character are revealed, not only do we have sympathy for him, but also for his resourcefulness and determination. Askel Hennie bears a similarity to American indie icon Steve Buscemi and is equally talented. The rest of the cast is also well chosen, but there's no point in listing them all, since none are familiar on this side of the Atlantic, and the names are seriously unpronounceable.
Director Morten Tyldum handles the action as if he's having a lot of fun making this film, and in doing so makes it fun for us. There is some grizzly violence, but nothing excessive, and one very creative scene in which Roger is forced to do something almost unimaginable, and indescribable on radio, in order to escape his pursuer.
One of the terrific things about Headhunters is that once you think you have a handle on what's going on and who's doing what to whom, a character or a plot twist does a complete 180…except for the ending, which is 100% obvious as the story progresses. But it's a minor flaw in a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller.
Since Hollywood seems to have a fetish for remaking excellent foreign films, I won't be surprised to see a new version of Headhunters in the next couple of years, probably with Brad Pitt or George Clooney. But before that, you should try on the original for size.
However, the bad news is that unless you have already seen Headhunters, you missed it. The film finished its brief run at the Esquire Theatre last Thursday. It's too bad that foreign and independent films don't stick around longer so as to find an audience, but on the other hand, if you, the audience doesn't seek out the unusual early on, then there's no incentive for a theatre to keep it on screen. Mark your Netflix wish list now, as the R-rated Headhunters will be released on DVD on August 28. I'm ready to see it again.