Comfortably replete with Jarlsberg cheese, Vikingfjord Vodka and some wonderful Scandinavian pastries, you could be forgiven for thinking I’d forgotten I was there to review a film. But this was just the very genial introduction to a new Norwegian film hitting UK shores this April.
I settled, satisfied, into my seat for what I expected from the trailer to be a straightforward, nuts and bolts thriller, but Headhunters is much more than that. It is a surprising and hilariously tricksy film with a darkly comic and quite sadistic inner-core.
Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) has all the trappings of a respectable businessman, complete with smart car, suits, wife and house. His snappy moves have earned him a role as a man for head-hunting the best corporate talent. Only his diminutive stature provides any level of self-doubt. However, his life is a minutely assembled and shock-proofed lie, as it transpires his fortune is amassed almost entirely from art-theft.
At a party, he is introduced to the suave Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, known to US/UK audiences from Game of Thrones). Roger spots an opportunity to end his criminal career with the biggest theft of all, the valuable Ruebens painting at Clas’s apartment. His accomplice, Ove, will sneak the painting out of the country and onto the black market.
On executing the plan, things go disastrously awry. What appeared to be a simple art heist leads to questions about Roger’s wife’s fidelity. Then the story becomes a chase across the Norwegian countryside as Roger evades a relentless assassin. As he runs, the tension, set-pieces and improbability escalate. Traps and schemes become ever more inventive and no one can be trusted. Headhunters evolves into something wild and unpredictable. Escapades involving skewered dogs, errant tractors, a large amount of faecal matter and flying cars are some of the obstacles added to the delirious brew.
Headhunters won’t set the world alight in terms of acting, direction or artistry, but for 98 minutes you will laugh, wince and tremble as our hero, Roger, is wrung through the wringer and then wrung again through an ever more twisted set of wringers, each wringer more cruel and twisted than the last. A tense, hilarious and evil viewing experience which will keep you guessing.
Headhunters is released in the UK and Ireland on April 6th. Watch the trailer: