Adapted from a novel by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo, Headhunters is breakneck-paced, oddball thriller. After carefully crafting a world regulated by clear motives and logical consequences, Headhunters drop-kicks its characters into a bizarre nightmare of implausible, but wickedly funny, genre-scrambling tangents.
Protagonist Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), who looks, acts, and, even in Norwegian seems to speak like one of those imbeciles from Made in Chelsea, is a powerful and successful head-hunter. In order to keep his goddess of a wife, Diana, (Synnøve Macody Lund) in diamond earrings Roger moonlights as a professional thief, stealing valuable works of art from his potential clients and replacing them with reproductions.
Roger’s Patrick Bateman-like obsession with wealth and status, his adultery, his thieving, his sneering condescendence, even his hairstyle, set him up for a heavy dose of comeuppance and, right on cue, karmic revenge for his wrongdoings is introduced in the form of bankruptcy, a police investigation and the arrival of Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a handsome former military elite and wife-stealing extraordinaire. Aside from the spiteful sense of satisfaction gained from watching the smug look slide from Roger’s well-groomed features, Headhunters offers little in the way of excitement up to this point. Switching between the light-hearted, vaguely comical tone of a TV heist thriller and the domestic trials of melodrama, the narrative trajectory of Headhunters seems pretty obvious. But then suddenly, out of nowhere, it all KICKS OFF!
Roger’s seemingly inevitable battle with the law and fight to save his marriage fade into insignificance as he is forced to run for his life from a maniacal killer with a PhD in human tracking and better technology at his disposal than the predator. The chase is on and, although thoroughly implausible, the intense game of cat and mouse played out between Roger and Clas is a thrill to watch. The tone takes a delightfully sharp turn into randomness with some marvellous moments of dark humour as, more Mr Bean than Mr Bates, Roger resorts to some strange and ineffectual methods of escape.
The horrifying and brutal ordeal Roger is put through is jolly good fun to watch even as it spins wildly out of control. Headhunters stretches the believability of its events beyond the limits even the most elastic of imaginations, but it’s such a slick, entertaining watch, you can almost forgive it. Ultimately, where Headhunters falls down and cracks its skull on the pavement is its insistence on creating a sense of narrative closure that fits in with real-world logic. Even the cleverest writers in the world couldn’t create a believable scenario which would allow Roger to return to work on Monday as though nothing had happened, and yet, that’s exactly what Headhunters tries to do.
Good, wholesome, fun for ages 15 and over, Headhunters is an unbelievable, yet thoroughly enjoyable diversion from the current Scandinavian crime thriller vogue, just don’t try to take it seriously.