Headhunters (Hodejegerne) Review

Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is 1.68 meters tall and feels very inadequate about it. Despite working in a highly paid job, as a corporate headhunter, having a beautiful house and spending a fortune on luxury gifts for his wife, his tall wife, Diana (Synnove Macody Lund), he believes that he is not enough for her.
Roger is constantly spending more and more on her in an effort to somehow make up for this perceived inadequacy and in doing so he begins spiralling into serious debt. Being a headhunter isn’t his only profession though and he frequently moonlights as a cat burglar, stealing expensive works of art from his clients, using information gleamed in interviews with them, a sideline he keeps a secret from his wife.

At the opening of Diana’s new gallery Roger is introduced to a friend of hers, the former CEO of a high profile GPS company, Clas Greve. Despite being somewhat suspicious of Clas’ relationship with Diana and therefore reluctant to become too friendly with him, Roger’s ears prick up when he hears of Clas’ previous job. Roger is currently looking to headhunt someone for a company named Pathfinder, and Clas’ skills are exactly what he is looking for. Upon returning home Diana also informs Roger that Clas has recently come into possession of an incredibly rare and valuable painting. Things seem to be looking up for Roger but rather than being the solution to all of his problems, meeting Clas is just the beginning of a long and terrifying journey for Roger.

At this point in the story Headhunters begins spinning off into suspenseful and often very unexpected directions. A surprising thriller is something that is rarely successfully executed in a satisfyingly way narratively but Headhunters is an enjoyably slick example of this working exceptionally well. The script is suitably twisting with secrets revealed and shifts in the plot that are genuinely hard to second guess, without anything that happens being too far-fetched or unexpected simply for the sake of being hard to guess. Situations do go in some almost absurd areas at times but they make sense within the film and the slightly tongue in cheek tone that the film has makes these slightly silly moments more fun than distracting.

The pervading style in Headhunters also adds to the sense of fun, with a score that often riffs on the kind of sounds that wouldn’t be out of place in a 60s spy film and an approach to production design that is both luxurious and minimal. The costume design is also very well handled and this is particularly important in portraying Roger’s transformation as things begin to go downhill for him as he goes on the run and desperation sets in.

This transformation is one of the film’s strength, with a fantastic performance from Hennie making his character’s degradation in both the serious and comical scenes incredibly convincing. The change in Roger’s character is both entertaining, engaging and thematically interesting. Beginning the film as wealthy and, at least on the surface, someone who ‘has it all’, the signifiers of his privileged life are slowly stripped away as he is chased across the, beautiful, Norwegian landscape.

The significance of the stripping away of the fineries of Roger’s life is perhaps more narratively important than thematically and these could have been more interestingly dealt with, the film’s ending only partly addresses the change that he has gone through, but for a film that is mostly simply an entertaining romp this minor depth is a welcome addition.
Headhunters certainly isn’t heady but it is thoroughly enjoyable and with perfect pacing, a good sense of escalation and enthralling plotting it’s quite hard not to get caught up in this entertaining thriller.

The review was originally posted at HeyUGuys.