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London Film Festival: Headhunters - review

Synnøve Macody Lund and Aksel Hennie

Review by Tim Carson

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

Norwegian thriller writer Jo Nesbo has been touted as the “next Stieg Larsson” for some time now and his books have been selling by the shelf-load in the UK helped by that clai – and the fact that they are very good. Headhunters is the first of his best-selling novels he has agreed to have adapted for the big-screen and the Swedish company Yellow Bird and Summit have just agreed to make a version for the American market.

If it’s anywhere near as good as this original Norwegian version then hopefully US audiences and Jo Nesbo will be delighted. While not as dark or deadly as Larsson’s Millennium trilogy Headhunters is a pacy, clever and often blackly humourous thriller.

The film is centred on the hugely successful corporate headhunter Roger Brown, who has all the trappings to go with the lifestyle – the big house, the big car and the beautiful wife. But Roger also has a secret – he’s living well beyond his means and is having to finance his lavish lifestyle by stealing valuable paintings on the side.

With his beautiful wife Diana’s new gallery opening and another big mortgage payment due on his expensive house Roger really needs a big score to cover his debts. A chance meeting with Clas Greve at the gallery opening presents him with both the opportunity to headhunt him for a key job and steal his very valuable painting. Unfortunately, for Roger things do not go according to plan with either and he is soon in a whole heap of trouble.

Aksel Hennie is excellent as Roger effortlessly convincing us that he will do anything – and anything goes to some extremes – to cling on to his life and more importantly his wife. He also ably charts his change from charming and smarmy to vulnerable and desperate.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones) is perfect as the icy Greve and there’s good support from Synnøve Macody Lund as Roger’s wife Diana.

The strong cast help conceal the twists and turns that are hard to see coming and all the more satisfying for it.

Director Morten Tyldum rackets up the tension brilliantly and the film looks great too. He also managed to smoothly combine the dramatic moments with the more humourous ones and the touching emotional scenes that play out towards the end. Nothing feels out of place and the tone is just right throughout.

Headhunters is a gripping and stylish thriller that adds to the growing reputation of crime dramas coming out of Scandinavia. Well worth catching in its original state before it gets a Hollywood make-over.

Certificate: TBC
Running time: 101mins
London Film Festival Premiere: October 18, 2011
UK Release Date: TBC

Book tickets at the LFF