JDIFF 2012 REVIEW – Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters

Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is Norway’s most successful head hunter, but his paycheque does not cover the extravagant lifestyle that his wife expects, so to make ends meet, Brown steals paintings to sell on the black market. Brown has set up a careful network that allows him to do this, but when his wife introduces him to Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) – a man who owns a very valuable painting – Brown sees a once in a lifetime opportunity to make some serious money. What could go wrong?

Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters is a glossy and slick crime thriller. Aksel Hennie plays the head hunter of the title, and captures the initial confidence of a man who knows exactly what he wants. As the movie unfolds, and Brown’s life becomes ever more complex however, Hennie portrays a man whose carefully ordered world is disintegrating and he is powerless to stop it. There is an incredible scene where Brown shaves off his hair – after surviving a horrific car crash – and breaks down. This shows Hennie’s versatility and the vulnerability of the character as he changes from scoundrel to victim.

Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays Greve, Brown’s target. The character starts off as cool and collected, but soon reveals that he has sinister ulterior motives. Like Jaime Lannister, Greve is far more than he appears to be and Coster-Waldau plays the charismatic character – who has no qualms about killing to get to the man he wants – with flair.

Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters starts off as a fairly simple heist movie, but plot twists and turns, and the emergence of Clas Greve as a villain with motives of his own, create a movie that keeps the audience guessing. Brown starts off as a scoundrel, but the audience roots for him as he has believable and realistic motives. The character soon changes from cool and collected to lost and bewildered and Hennie creates a sympathetic and relatable man as he travels through emotional and physical pain.

Director Morten Tyldum allows the tension to ebb and flow throughout the film, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats the entire time. There are some incredibly graphic, and incredibly gross, scenes in the film that Tyldum does not shy away from, which allows Roger Brown’s character to be fleshed out and understood. The eventual happy ending is so heard earned by Brown who evolves from cold to warm and open, that it feels satisfying and leaves the audience cheering.

In all, Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters is the movie that every crime thriller wishes it could be; smart, darkly funny and fantastically paced, with strong performances from the entire cast.

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