At the risk of sounding like an old Carlsberg lager advertisement, Headhunters is probably the best film adaptation of a book…ever. With a screenplay by Lars Gudmestad and Ulf Ryberg based on the book by Jo Nesbo and directed by Morten Tyldum, Headhunters is a thriller of the highest order with more than capable acting from all involved.
The film stars Aksel Hennie as the 1.68 metre hero Roger Brown; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as the Dutchman Clas Greve (and if ever there was a man born to play Resident Evil’s Leon Kennedy it’s Nikolaj, he looks like he’s stepped right out of Resi 4 or Resi 6); Nikolaj will be better known by English audiences from his work on Game of Thrones. The two female leads in the film are Synnøve Macody Lund as Diana Brown and Julie R. Ølgaard as the scheming Lotte. Synnøve is not an actress by profession, she’s a journalist and this is her first film. That she acquitted herself so well is amazing.
I first saw Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in the 1994 Norwegian film Nightwatch. Interestingly, this was remade in 1997 as a vehicle for Ewan McGregor who went on to work with Nikolaj in 2001’s Blackhawk Down. It is interesting in that both actors display similar virtues in their work, a subtlety and awareness that enhance their performances and make them stand out in a film.
For those of you who have read Jo Nesbo’s brilliant book, you will know the plot already. If you have not had the pleasure of reading Headhunters, I suggest you rush down to your local book seller or library and do so. In the mean time, you will have to follow my recitation of the plot.
Roger Brown is one of Norway’s best headhunters. He is married to Diana and he lives a lavish lifestyle well above his salary. To supplement this lifestyle, he steals valuable art work and sells them with the help of his partner in crime Ove Kijkerud (played with a certain comic deviousness by Eivind Sander, who looked maddeningly familiar to me). Despite Roger’s supplemental income, he’s running low on financial resources and Diana is desperate for a child after seven years of marriage.
While attending his wife’s art gallery opening he meets Clas Greve via an introduction by Diana. Roger discovers that Clas, who is the ex-CEO of a multimillion dollar GPS company a priceless painting in his possession and that he would be perfect for Roger’s current client Pathfinder. A Norwegian GPS company searching for a new CEO.
When Roger (with the aid of Ove) breaks into Clas’s flat to steal the painting, he finds Diana’s mobile (cell) phone in the bedroom. The next time he sees Clas, he tells him that the company is still interviewing candidates for the new position and he tells Diana that he will not be recommending Clas for the job.
We see Ove going to Roger’s house to presumably pick up the painting. The next morning Roger goes to his garage to get in his car to drive to work. He discovers Ove apparently dead in the front seat of his car. Panicking, Roger shoves Ove into the boot (trunk) of his car just as Diana comes down to see if he (Roger) is all right.
Roger takes Ove’s body to a lake and fills the body’s pockets with stones and rolls Ove into the lake. As Roger sits on the lake shore catching his breath, Ove suddenly appears gasping for his breath only to sink under the water again. Roger jumps in and drags Ove out and takes him to his house.
Ove tries to shoot Roger and ends up getting shot for his trouble. Roger’s life had become a scary cat and mouse game with him as the mouse. Clas will not stop until he has killed Roger.
The locations are beautiful and the cinematography is superb. Despite the “creative license” taken with the book, the film works and manages to crank the suspense up just as effectively as the novel itself did. You still find yourself second guessing and because certain things were changed in the film, you hold your breath at the end, just in case it doesn’t turn out how you expected it to.
Askel does a brilliant job as Roger Brown, the short man with attitude. He seemed to me (looks wise) to be an odd cross between Christopher Walken and David Hemmings. His acting was spot on, morphing effortlessly from over-confident prig to terrified victim to desperate fighter. He rang all the changes necessary to sell his character.
Nikolaj has always made me think of Sean Bean, they could almost be brothers, and he has not disappointed me yet in anything I’ve seen him in.
The film can be viewed in Norwegian with English subtitles and I would highly recommend viewing it that way. It is very rare that dubbed versions are as enjoyable as the original language version. I always feel that a huge amount is lost by having another actor voice the lines. I would give Headhunters a whopping 5 out of 5 stars and class it as a two bag of popcorn film.
Don’t miss it and don’t wait for the remake, see it now!
- Headhunters by Jo Nesbo: A Killer Interview… (mikesfilmtalk.com)
- Headhunters (2011) (canadiancinephile.com)
- Book Review: Headhunters by Jo Nesbø (aegeanjan.wordpress.com)
- Being a Detective in Nesbo Style (messinmyheart.wordpress.com)
- Headhunters (themoviereport.net)
- The Top Films of 2012 (cashierdecinema.com)
- Jo Nesbø’s Headhunters (sylviemheroux.wordpress.com)