Starring: Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
There is no denying that in the last few years one of the best emerging genres in TV and cinema is Scandinavian Noir. The best known example, and arguably the catalyst, was The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but shows such as The Killing and The Bridge have also done a fantastic job of showing that serious dramas, and in particular those concerned with crime, can originate from any part of the world.
Like Stieg Larsson, author of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Jo Nesbo has found some success in the literary field with his Harry Hole detective series. 2011 saw the release of Headhunters, a Norwegian film based on Nesbo’s standalone book of the same name (Hodejegerne in Norway).
The story follows Roger Brown (Hennie), a not-particularly-Norwegian-sounding recruitment agent who also dabbles in art theft on the side to pay for the more expensive things in life. Whilst searching for a new manager for the technology company Pathfinder, his path crosses with Clas Greve (Coster-Waldau, better known as Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones), a previous employee of a well-known Dutch technology company, who is interested in taking the job.
Greve happens to have a priceless painting in his possession, and during Brown’s attempt to steal this, he discovers that the job is not the only thing Greve is interested in taking, but also Brown’s wife. When Brown attempts to block Greve’s job application, what follows is a cat-and-mouse manhunt, as Greve does not take kindly to being meddled with.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the review, I have a confession to make. You see I pride myself on being one fo those people who relishes a foreign film, subtitles and all. Some people don’t like it, and whilst it means they shut themselves off from some genuinely breathtaking films, I appreciate that it is not for everyone.
Last night, however, in a fit of laziness I used the English dubbing, rather than read the subtitles. I know, I know. I am a disgrace, and a hypocrite. I am not proud of it, but it’s done now and I can’t change that. I am sorry for letting everyone down.
What I do in my own private time is none of your concern, however this does essentially mean that it is difficult for me to truly judge the actors’ performances. I can tell you that their facial expressions seemed to convey the right amount of emotion for the scenes, however did they deliver their lines convincingly? I. Just. Don’t. Know.
As for the ‘talent’ who leant their voices to the English translation, well, they were not stellar, and their acting was more akin to a different style of movie which one can often find coming from Scandinavia, but they did enough to sell the story and were marginally better than most voiceover translators I have heard in the past.
The action scenes are all well designed, with some original scenes depicting Brown’s battle to stay alive. The director, Morten Tyldum, has also managed to throw in some darkly comic moments, which blend well with the serious tone of the film.
Whilst the characters are all relatively elitist, and live/work in the expensive parts of Oslo, Tyldum successfully manages to take what should be an exclusive setting and show it’s darker, grittier underbelly.
Overall, the story is somewhat original and has a few twists to keep you guessing, however I would have liked to see the art theft business used a little more effectively. Given that Brown leads a somewhat dangerous life, once he is threatened, he takes some time to show any real guile.
Definitely worth a watch to confirm that Scandinavian studios can make some decent films, but not worth losing your head over.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Did you know? – Whilst Nesbo is best known for his crime novels, he also has a series of children’s books following the antics of Doktor Proktor. One can only imagine the horrors he is introducing children to!