Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review of HEADHUNTERS (2012)

- Rated R for bloody violence including some grisly images, strong sexual content and nudity.
- Starring Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Synnove Macody Lund
- Written by Lars Gudmestad & Ulf Ryberg (Based on the novel by Jo Nesbo)
- Directed by Morten Tyldum
- Running time: 1hr 40min

This nail-biting thriller from Norway is about an art thief named Roger.  Even though he works as a headhunter (recruiting people for various companies) he makes his real money by reprinting famous paintings, finding the original, and then replacing them to sell the original on the black market.  Roger also has a gorgeous wife who runs an art gallery.  Through her he meets an art collector named Clas, who owns a rare original painting.  Roger plans on stealing it with his partner, but one thing he didn't count on was that Clas used to be a special agent in the Military with excellent tracking and assassination skills.  Also, the thief discovers that his wife is having an affair with Clas.  Now, after taking the painting, Clas is hot on Roger's trailer.

That plot description does not do the movie justice.  This is quite possibly the most purely entertaining film I have seen in quite some time.  Man, I don't even know where to begin.  Let's see....  The movie starts with a quick list of rules to follow during a robbery with rapid fire editing and prominent images.  This brief opening sequence told me that I was in the hands of a director who knew what he was doing.  Then we get to know Roger, who is kind of a prick.  A cold and calculating individual who likes all the expensive superficial things in his life.  He even cheats on his barbie doll wife.  But for some reason we end up rooting for him by the end of the movie.  That's because his character begins to change as his life falls apart thread by thread.  He realizes he hasn't been the best person, and you actually believe that he would change if he lives through all these events.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here.  The big reason why this movie works is because of the structure, which is basically a clear cut thriller.  This movie isn't necessarily groundbreaking and original, but the way it builds suspense little by little as the tension slowly escalates that eventually it becomes nearly unbearable (in the best way possible).  As Roger is being hunted by Clas, the situations he keeps getting in get worse and worse.  The filmmakers find many ways that Roger can either die or get caught, and it always seems like they're impossible situations to get out of.  I kept thinking, "How the hell is he going to get out of this one?"  And everyone of these set pieces end with Roger getting away in clever and suspenseful ways.  I guarantee you will be on the edge of your seat with unbearable tension and absolute disgust as Roger hides in an outhouse.  There's also an exciting scene with an attack dog.  I don't want too many other specific things, since the whole fun of this movie was to see what other obstacles the filmmakers were going to throw at Roger.  Also, this film has some pretty brutal violence that's as graphic as any horror film, which was a plus for me.  Really added to the danger of the film. 

Director Morten Tyldum is a director with a clear vision.  Every shot appears to be expertly storyboarded and thought out.  Lots of obtuse angles, and perfect editing.  He knows how to properly pace a tension filled scene.  It's movie manipulation at it's finest.  The acting is excellent all around with Aksel Hennie highlighting the film as Roger.  It's a great performance that resembles the acting of Paul Bettany.  In fact, I could see him playing this role if this was remade, which I really hope it isn't.  It's perfect the way it is, and probably couldn't be improved upon.  The script is first rate.  And nothing is ever what it seems, as Clas might actually have more on his mind than just his painting. 

If you love suspenseful thrill rides.  You WILL NOT want to miss this!  This is the first "MUST SEE" movie of the year and easily the most satisfying.  There are so many great moments in this that I lost track of them about halfway through.  HEADHUNTERS is an exhilarating thriller with great visual flare, top notch acting, and a story that will have you so involved that you will possibly have no fingernails by the end of it.  DO NOT MISS IT!!!

**** (out of ****)

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