Headhunters aka Hodejegerne
Directed by Morten Tyldum
Playing at UK cinemas now
Yeah, okay. This one wasn’t bad.
Based on a novel by popular writing phenomenon Jo Nesbo, Headhunters tells the story of a successful art thief who covers his day to day expenses by working as a very successful business headhunter with a very strong reputation. It’s made pretty clear right from the start of the movie, in first person, voice-over narrative, that the only reason he keeps planning and executing these risky crimes is to keep his absolutely gorgeous wife in the financial luxury he feels she needs to entice her to stay with him.
Not the best motivation, to be sure, but it immediately gives you a bit of insight in to the true nature of the main protagonist and allows the audience to empathise with him and root for him throughout the film. His wife is, actually, a typically gorgeous icy blonde and, although the subjective perceptions made by characters turn out to be a little skewed in the story, the director does leave things to be seen in this fashion for the majority of the movie... as a necessity actually because a lot of the suspense and tension of certain scenes in this movie play out from an audience viewpoint of not knowing who can be trusted and, of course, without that skewed impression in the first place, the events of the film would not have a reason to take place.
I should probably point out at this point that I have not read a translation of Jo Nesbo’s original novel but I am assuming that the events of the film have followed this fairly closely, regardless of my ignorance of the source material. Why? Because, frankly, this movie is so densely packed with story twists and dialogue, heaped onto action and suspense sequences, that the movie has to be very fast paced to squeeze in all the story content and I’m assuming this stuff is all taken from the source novel.
And it really is fast paced. I’d hate to think what the average shot length on this movie is... four seconds? It very rarely slows down for much longer than that.
In some ways, this movie harkens back to the kind of fast paced caper movies that Hollywood used to make so well in that period between the early and late sixties, filtered through an almost 1930s screwball comedy pacing that is a fairly ferocious animal when it comes to throwing this stuff at Western audiences these days... this is not an “effects movie” it’s a “people doing stuff” movie and this is, of course, to be applauded in every way possible.
Actually, that 1930s screwball analogy isn’t such a fanciful or wild deviation as you might think, if you’ve not seen this movie. The main protagonist looks like an uncomfortable cross between Christopher Walken and Rocco Siffredi and the absolute absurdity of the situations he gets himself into and his comical reactions to those situations are all very much played for laughs. The film is also quite violent and wallows in the goriness that the consequences of violence result in and, as such, the film is a curious mix of dark, hardened and edgy movie making but mixed up with comic overtones... almost Monty Python in its construction... certainly farcical in many of the chase scenes that adorn the film in a number of set pieces.
The musical score, too, is frantically paced light jazz combined with large stabs of dark colour and punctuated with a more modern percussion element. I would buy this in a shot if they released it. As it happens, I can’t even remember the names of the two composers of the score which is a shame because the internet does not seem to want to help me out with this one. Not even the IMDB has the composers listed... which is a bit strange. What’s going on here?
On the down side, the story of this film is fairly twisty and turny but, for the most part, I think due to the sheer density of the things which happen in this one, they are pretty much predictable all the way through. This is a shame but, of course, it’s one of the risks you take with this kind of storyline. Things are probably less easy to see coming in a novel than they are when everything is encapsulated into a moving picture format and, when you have the main protagonist actually narrating the story, there are certain things you know can’t happen to him... so there are moments when you might think he’s going to be exiting the story at a certain point and then remember he can’t because the film started off with a narrative framing device. This stuff works against itself sometimes.
What I will say, though, is that because this is a fairly crackling, action/comedy thriller, I don’t think they’ll be many people who wouldn’t like this one. I’m pretty sure that Hollywood will be all over this one (although I somehow doubt Rocco Siffredi will get offered the lead role) and be wanting to remake this as soon as possible. It’s not one I think I could personally watch again as I don’t really value story as a “key” component of film-making but I know a lot of people do tend to like the story element in films that they watch and I certainly enjoyed it enough to put this on my “recommended” list. Check it out if comic thrillers are your thing.