Nailbiting. A few years ago, who would have thought that the Nordics would become the undisputed masters of the modern thriller. First (to uneducated me) there was Stieg Laarson with his Millenium trilogy with the extraordinary ‘Lisbeth Salander. And now there’s Jo Nesbo. “Headhunters” is one of Nesbo’s many, increasingly famous, thrillers. Already, apparently Hollywood is production mode to turn this grippingly directed movie into it’s own sub-title-free version, re-cast for American audiences.
The one we have here is just fine. This is one of those edge of the seat thrillers where you just know things are going to go from bad to worse and where, really, there are no good guys, simply ones who are less bad.
The baddest of them all is Nikolaj Coster-Waldu as Clas. He’s the actor most of us know as the scheming, villanous Jamie Lannister from “Game of Thrones”. He’s an equally nasty piece of work here. And even though you know (because after all, it’s a movie) that he will get his comeuppance, you never quite see it coming, because, really, his foil is such an unattractive slimeball that it takes a while for one to become sympathetic to him.
Aksel Hennie is Roger, the slime-ball. This is the eponymous headhunter who uses his clients to scope out their whereabouts and (because I guess most headhunters work with unemployed clients who happen to have famous works of art lying around) where there’s art, there’s a neatly executed theft. This is the way the movie begins – like another slick heist movie. But pretty soon, the mood darkens, the plot, as they say, thickens and the bodies start to pile up.
Slime-ball begins to win us over after he’s been bitten by a pit bull, stabbed (literally) in the back, beaten up, and slammed into by a ten ton truck. Only John McClane (“Die Hard”) has been able to withstand as much punishment and still keep walking.
As always with movies of this type, I marvel at the intricacy of plotting. How on earth will they resolve all the loose ends and seeming red herrings (and this being Norwegian, there are a lot of those)? Well, they do. And once you get through the gore (“Headhunters” isn’t for the feint of heart), it’s all very satisfying.