If its recent exports are anything to go by, Scandinavia is the land of thrilling crime as much as it is the home of highly-taxed social democracy and cross-country skiing. And this month sees Norway’s contribution with the UK release of the film of Jo Nesbo’s novel Headhunters.
Headhunter’s was always going to have a tough time establishing its identity in a crowded market. The films of Steig Larsson’s “Millennium” book series were produced first in Swedish in 2008 and, more recently, the first in the Hollywood trilogy found form with the muscular Daniel Craig as front man. But Headhunters carves out its own niche as more of a pure adrenaline ride, and does so with panache. The film offers mastery in tempo—something crucial to a true thriller—gradually building from a trotting overture of characterisation through to a sustained final hour of fighting, fleeing, killing and crying.
The protagonist is corporate headhunter Roger Brown. Seduced by a life-style he cannot afford and driven by a severe case of “small man syndrome,” he makes money on the side by stealing art from his clients. Brown meets his match in Dutch Special Forces veteran Clas Greve, who tempts him to steal a fake Rembrandt, sleeps with his wife, and spends most of the film trying to kill him.