Meet Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), a blonde 1.68 meters tall headhunter living the luxury life. He has a beautiful mansion, an even more beautiful and expensive wife named Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) and so much more. But even the paycheque of a successful headhunter isn’t enough to satisfy his or his wife’s needs, so Roger moonlights as an art thief. With a specific selection of rules to follow, Roger has found great wealth in stealing art but he is still in the lookout for that one massively expensive heist. Such a thing comes along when Diana introduces Roger to wealthy man named Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who just so happens to possess a painting worth north of 50 million. As he sets up to steal the painting, Roger is plunged into an intricate trap that sees everything he holds dear at risk.
Even though 2012 so far hasn’t been an outstanding year for foreign films, especially since I haven’t been able to see that many, the few that I’ve seen have managed to be pretty outstanding. And as whole I think it is fair to say that Headhunters is easily one of the most thrilling and awesome foreign films I’ve seen in a very long time. At first glance the film and its protagonist echo Daniel Craig’s character in Layer Cake. Like him, Roger Brown is a wealthy and very smart man handling a risky business who does not like violence. However, Brown is an infinitely more interesting character that Craig’s ever was and it is all largely thanks to both actor Aksel Hennie and story itself.
At the beginning of Headhunters we are introduced to a very confident Roger Brown, but with the introduction of Clas Greve things start to deteriorate. First is his suspicions of his wife’s infidelity, then there’s the fact that his greed and desire for that big score blinds him to the truth behind Clas Greve. Greve isn’t just some wealthy businessman, he is something else entirely, something much more dangerous that challenged Brown in almost every way. It is really amazing to see a film put his protagonist under such overwhelming scrutiny so much so that throughout most of the film you genuinely have to no idea how Brown will survive or if he will. Every challenge screws him up and forces him to not only question who his friends really are, but also makes use his brain to come out alive. The twists almost never end in Headhunters and the best part about them is that they feel natural. At no point do you feel like things happen for pure entertainment, instead while remaining exciting they are in service to the character.
Actor Aksel Hennie is right there with all those challenges and delivers an amazing performance. He is perfectly smooth, confident and cool at the beginning when his character is putting a front, but then later on when that all dissipates the character is revealed to be a very fragile, fractured and unsecured one. Hennie is at his best during those latter moments when he displays that vulnerability and humanity that we didn’t know was in him. There is a scene between him and Macody Lund who plays his wife that is so tender and heartbreaking that it perfectly sums up all the greatness of this film. Just like Hennie, the two other main cast members are also brilliant. Macody Lund is great and I really liked how her character was revealed to not cliche or generic at all. And Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is absolutely brilliant as the villain of the piece. He is so suave and awesome that you almost want him to win.
Headhunters was a real surprise for me. I went into it expecting nothing and I left with an overwhelming desire to watch it once again. Headhunters delivers on every single front from its stellar action pieces to its unpredictable and constantly exciting story. The acting is first-rate across the board with Aksel Hennie delivering one the most memorable and brilliant performances I’ve seen so far this year. He owns the film from start to finish and presents a character deep in layers that is refreshingly intelligent. Headhunters has a lot of twist and for the most part you will have no idea where things are going. It keeps you guessing till the very end and delivers a genuinely thrilling experience.