Morten Tyldum’s “Headhunters” is an interesting blend of tones and genres. It starts off with what you think will be a heist film, but then quickly changes into a thriller/mystery. It even takes some time to throw in a little black comedy throughout. All of these elements combine to give you a film where you’ll not only be unsure of what will happen next, but also what your emotional reaction to it will be.
Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is living the good life. He lives in a large house with his beautiful wife Diana (Synnove Macody Lund) and has a decent job as a headhunter for a large corporation. The problem is, he can’t afford the lifestyle he has chosen, causing him to be an art thief on the side. However, his latest acquisition hasn’t even provided him with enough funds to make a payment on his expensive house.
At his wife’s gallery opening, he meets Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a former consultant for a nanotechnology company. Roger is currently looking to fill a position at his company, so he offers Clas a meeting to discuss it. However, Roger becomes even more interested in him when he hears through his wife that Clas has a work by Rubens sitting in his apartment that is worth millions. He immediately plans to steal it, and is successful, but shortly after, he finds himself the victim of the relentless hunting skills of Clas, an ex-soldier and expert tracker.
As mentioned earlier, you may think this is a heist film by the way it’s set up. It’s interesting that they seemed to take a lot of time with this section too, thoroughly arranging how the heists were to be carried out. The film even opens with Roger’s list of rules that include a time limit and making sure not to leave any DNA behind. His friend at a security company disables the alarms, deletes the logs, and takes a percentage of the score. In a way, it’s all just to tease you before things get really crazy.
The mystery and thrills are what end up driving “Headhunters.” While Roger is taking the expensive Munch work from Clas’s apartment, he also finds his wife’s cell phone, leading him to believe that the two are having an affair. For us, it only adds onto the question of why Clas is hunting him.
We know that Clas is having an affair with his wife, which causes Roger to reject him for the position at his company, but this is also after he has stolen Clas’s property, so which of these things is the reason behind the hunt, or is there the possibility that all three are the reason? The answer ends up being a little simplified, but it doesn’t stop the excitement of the film as we watch Roger try to escape.
The black comedy also helps move things along rather well. These aren’t particularly laugh out loud moments, but they are moments that may shock you or just have you staring in disbelief. One of these moments is reminiscent of “Slumdog Millionaire” while another moment featuring Roger driving a tractor down a road will leave your jaw hanging open at the absurdity of the situation.
The film also has an interesting sense of paranoia about it. As we learn early on in the film, Clas used to work with nanotechnology and helped develop micro-transmitters that can’t be removed. Roger remembers this and tries his best to get rid of them by getting rid of his clothes and taking other extreme steps, not knowing if he was successful or not. Then there’s also the problem of who he can trust. His mistress really wants to stay with him, but she could be in on it. He doesn’t even know if he can trust his wife, who is having an affair with the man trying to hunt him down.
This all comes down to a conclusion that feels like a puzzle being put together. Everything has to be just right, or at least appear to be, to make the plan work flawlessly. As to whether it does or not, you’ll have to discover for yourself. “Headhunters” is a rather strange film, but it’s also a rather entertaining one. Its tonal shifts may have your head spinning, but in the end, this is one that is very much worth seeing. 3/4 stars.