Not since the days of Ingmar Bergman (or, alright, Abba) has it been so cool to be Scandinavian. With the popularity of the Millennium novels/films at fever pitch, not to mention well-received genre flicks Rare Exports and Troll Hunter, Scandinavia is definitely making it big in the cinematic arena right now. Its latest offering is Headhunters, a stylish Norwegian mystery (based on the book by Jo Nesbø) that doesn’t exactly break any rules, but is bags of fun anyway.
Featuring everything from grisly car wrecks to speared mutts, Headhunters is as frequently grim as that multi-meaning title suggests. Not that you’d guess as much from the film’s spritely opening scenes. We’re introduced to anti-hero Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), a status-hungry, anxiety-riddled suit who exploits his role as a corporate headhunter to gain important information that’ll help him in his on-the-side hobby of art-thievery. Except then he rips off the wrong guy in Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game Of Thrones), an ex-military bloodhound who turns Roger from hunter to huntee.
After a fleet-footed and funny opening, Headhunters quickly transforms into a breakneck chase movie. The film’s location-dashing mid-section is often wordless and viscerally involving, mostly thanks to Hennie’s committed turn. It also includes a comically horrible scene where Roger, shall we say, ‘pulls a Slumdog’.
The main problem here, though, is that Headhunters’ mystery is too unwieldy to truly rivet. It’s so bogged down in boring corporate politics that it’s unable to function as the glorified action movie it has every right to be. As a study of a man brought down by his own insecurities, though, it’s often tongue-in-cheek funny, even if tonally director Morten Tyldum seems torn between two different movies. Still, despite its flaws, Headhunters is pacy and engaging. The Scando invasion continues… 3/5