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Headhunters (2011)

May 10, 2015

Starring: Aksel Hennie, Synnove McCody Lund, Nikolaj Colste-Waldau
Director: Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

Bottom Line: My parents have been hassling me to watch Headhunters for months, bringing it up every time I see them and posting on my Facebook page, so I was going to have to raise hell if it wasn’t any good. They’ve been known to put some staunch praise on questionable films (see: August Rush) so it’s not like Headhunters was a lock to be awesome.

I am happy to report that it is – very awesome. It’s a 2011 film that hails from Norway and is directed by Morten Tyldum, whose The Imitation Game was recently nominated for Best Picture. Aksel Hennie, who looks like a Norwegian cross between Billy Crystal and Christopher Walken, stars as Roger, a short man that works as a headhunter – someone that recruits suitable candidates for open positions at various corporations – and steals valuable paintings in his spare time. I say he is short because the whole film seems to revolve around this insecurity. He states at the beginning of the film that he “overcompensates in other ways,” and uses the extra income he gets from stealing paintings to project a lavish lifestyle he otherwise could not afford. It all helps make him feel worthy of his trophy wife played by Lund. It’s a system that seems to work for Roger until he steals a highly valuable painting from Jamie Lannister (of Game Of Thrones), who quickly turns Roger’s world upside down by having an affair with his wife and trying to kill him.

From there, Headhunters quickly becomes a game of cat and mouse (and dog), with Roger on the run for his life. And it gets absurd – fantastically absurd. Part of the reason Headhunters works so well is because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s listed as a crime thriller, but comedy could easily be added to its genre specifications. As awful as the situation was at times, I couldn’t help but laugh at Roger’s elusive tactics. There’s a scene that involves an outhouse that makes the one in Schindler’s List seem tame by comparison.

Headhunters is smart, funny, and plenty entertaining. The acting is good in general, but Hennie is particularly amusing as Roger, although he probably wouldn’t make the best poker player. For someone with so many secrets, he wears his displeasure plainly on his face whenever he is unhappy about something – such as running into a law enforcement agent who is tracking art thieves. I’m not surprised that this film propelled Tyldum to Hollywood success. It’s an enjoyable ride and somewhere in this crazy movie there’s a message about being yourself, but it’s difficult to take away anything serious from such a fun film.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Must See/Excellent)

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