Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Blond Noir: Headhunters

Right now, Norway’s economy is a lot like our own.  There are way more job-seekers than open positions to fill.  At such times, if a recruiter sends you on an interview, you go, even though you might be leaving a few stray valuable objects d’art lying about your home unguarded.  That is Roger Brown’s racket, but it turns unexpectedly deadly in Morten Tyldum’s Headhunters (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York and also screens this afternoon as part of the 2012 San FranciscoInternational Film Festival.

Brown is a man slight of stature, married to his bombshell wife, Diana.  Suffering from a king-sized inferiority complex, he has allowed them to live beyond their means by burglarizing the homes of his executive search clients.  With his house of cards on the brink of collapse, Brown’s prayers appear to be answered in the person of Claes Greve.  Not only is the former tech CEO the perfect candidate for a plum position Brown must fill, he also owns a genuine Rubens painting of rather dodgy providence.  Win-win, right? 

However, when Brown starts to suspect the younger man and his wife are carrying-on an affair behind his back, he sabotages Greve’s campaign for the position.  At this point, Greve reacts more forcefully than Brown anticipates.  Mouse, meet cat.

Headhunters is quite a nifty one-darned-thing-after-another thriller.  Tyldum has a good handle on the material, constantly ratcheting-up the tension, but periodically using black comedy to release some steam.  In his hands, the frequent twists are entertaining rather than forced or exhausting. 

Tyldum also has a nice looking cast to focus on.  Especially bankable is the presence of Game of Thrones alumnus Nikolaj Coster-Wladau, now world famous for playing Lena Headey’s brother (and other things), Ser Jaime Lannister, here perfectly cast as Greve.  As Diana Brown, former model Synnøve Macody Lund certainly looks the part, but she also has some kind of nice dramatic moments as well.  In the lead, Aksell Hennie’s Brown holds the film together while coming to grief quite effectively.

Based on Norwegian mystery writer Jo Nesbø’s first book outside his bread-and-butter series, Headhunters engages in some of the same far-fetched anti-corporate humbug undermining so many recent domestic crime dramas.  However, Tyldum keeps the roller-coaster loop-de-looping at such breakneck speed, it is not so distracting.  Definitely a dark but thoroughly enjoyable exercise in skullduggery, Headhunters is easily recommended when it screens today as part of this year’s SFIFF and opens theatrically this Friday (4/27) in New York at the Landmark Sunshine.