Monday 9 April 2012

Review: Headhunters

Year: 2011 (U.K release 2012)
Director: Morten Tyldum
Screenplay: Lars Gudmestad, Ulf Ryberg
Starring: Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Synnøve Macody Lund, Julie R. Ølgaard

Synopsis is here

Headhunters appears to be gleefully taking advantage of a small-scale Scandinavian invasion; that looks like it kicked off with the likes of Let the Right One In (2008) and The Killing, but actually goes back further with the likes of Christopher Nolan's Insomnia (2002) and David S Goyer's The Invisible (2006) being remakes lifted from Scandinavian counterparts (1997 and 2002) respectively). As I sat watching the film I already had myself wondering who would be cast in a tamer Hollywood retelling* (Steve Buscemi, Diane Kruger and Arron Eckheart).  But before the cash claws of California begin to dig in, the original is sitting in cinemas trying to benefit from counter programming, sitting in-between the likes of The Hunger Games and Mirror Mirror.

Those's looking for a more po-faced thriller; the likes of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, may be slightly disappointed. Headhunters is in no way as serious and dark as some the aforementioned titles. Far from it, in fact, as it titters from mild mannered Ocean's affair (the slightly intrusive score evoking David Holmes) to graphic but mostly ludicrous violence. The perfect litmus test; is how a viewer feels about a protagonist finding himself nestling in a faeces filled toilet, using a loo roll tube as a breathing apparatus (and piece of camouflage).

The film descends from light hearted caper to droll cat and mouse chase as the Macguffin is quickly forgotten and the unorthodox looking Aksel Hennie panics franticly from absurd set piece to the next. The film delights in abusing it's lead to near Evil Dead levels. Bodies pile up, dogs are skewered, the aforementioned "poo dip" and the reason behind everything is all very silly. Despite being a leading Headhunter for a large company, the oddly named Roger Brown, wishes earn more money stealing art to keep up an ridiculous lifestyle and his impossibly good looking wife happy.

The set up doesn't sound too out of the ordinary considering, however, what makes the film interesting is not only the mere fact that Brown has to literally shave his head in order to physically keep it, but that the film uses it's oddball mixture of big business recruitment and art nabbing hijinks as a metaphor for grandiose dick swinging and bruised masculinity. Such aspects do go against the Hollywood grain. The film display its hero as a flawed individual who is physically wanting also. As our anti-hero is slung from pillar to post we soon realised he is being punished for his status claiming and lack of humility. The idea of such a character getting battered about due to his compensation for his small man syndrome, you can't help but giggle slightly. One of the films strongest and most telling scenes involves Roger meeting the antagonist Clus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) at an art gallery opening (how droll). Clus' model good looks and easy charm are used as in sharp contrast to Roger.

Strangely this is where the film left me. While I found myself absorbed in the movie as it revelled in it's madness, when the film has to explain itself in the third act, it doesn't stand up as well. Reasoning and  motivations flounder and become hazy while the pay off, though fine thematically, is played out as typically as the American films it managed to eschew for the most part. I'm sure most people won't mind and go along for the ride. However for me, the film nearly stopped dead in it's tracks for me.

Despite it's weaker third act, Headhunters utilizes it morbid sense of humour to it's fullest and manages to play out it's thrills far more effectively than the likes of such nonsense like The Tourist. Headhunter is slick and snappy entertainment, which is well cast and tightly put together. One could say for the most part the film got its head screwed on...sorry.

*Note: Upon writing this post, I found out that the remake rights have been brought by Hollywood already (before this film even came out).