Review of Headhunters

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An accomplished headhunter has his eye on a valuable painting and risks everything to obtain it.
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Movie Review: "Headhunters" --

Rating: R
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: April 27, 2012
Directed by: Morten Tyldum
Genre: Action, Crime and Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5

"Headhunters" is a Norwegian remake of the original movie by the same title; an English-language version is slated for release in 2014. Staring Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, the movie is a corporate thriller, complete with violence and bloodshed to spare. With an unmistakable energy that comes through even despite the language barrier, "Headhunters" is an exciting and unexpected moviegoing experience.

The story centers on Roger Brown (played by Aksel Hennie), a corporate headhunter with a side career as an art thief. During interviews for potential job openings, Brown asks probing questions that get at the target's tastes in art. If he senses that they might have valuable pieces of art in their collections, he sends the candidates for interviews with their potential new employers. In the meantime, he visits their homes and steals their most valuable art, leaving behind masterful fake reproductions in their place.

When he meets Clas Greve (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Brown is torn. Despite Greve's reputed art collection, he has doubts about the powerful man's attraction to Brown's wife, Diana (played by Synnøve Macody Lund). After Brown eventually pulls off the heist, he realizes that Greve may not have been the ideal target.

As Brown discovers the extend of the grave error he made, a series of gory, jarring events unfold. Scenes are remarkably graphic-some are truly alarming and chilling. The film culminates in a thrilling hunt that will leave audiences gasping for more.

"Headhunters" is based off of a book by Jo Nesbo, although it is considerably bloodier than its paperback counterpart. Director Morten Tyldum does not shy away from violence. Quite the opposite-he embraces it fully. The gore and brutality is shocking and stylized, though not in a comical manner. The end result is somehow pleasing, and viewers will find themselves delighted, even as they cringe away from the scenes on the screen. Tyldum clearly intends the violence to jar audiences out of complacency, and he hits his mark perfectly.

The cast of "Headhunters" is spectacular, demonstrating remarkable talent that transcends language. Viewers will not need to read the subtitles to understand the emotion that flashes across Hennie's face as he ponders the possibility of losing his wife, or to understand the anger and cold rage exhibited by Coster-Waldau as he pursues his mark. Aksel Hennie is surprisingly effective as Brown, a small man in a cast of statuesque actors. He exudes the confidence and power to carry his character through a set of unlikely events.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who viewers may recognize from HBO's "Game of Thrones," is a delight to watch. He is unfailingly bold and cold, and his unfailing focus provides a great deal of suspense. As his character, Greve, hunts down his prey, viewers may find themselves gripping their seats in a mixture of terror and curiosity. Coster-Waldau uses the role to display his considerable acting prowess, and audiences will be left wanting more.

In the beginning of the film, viewers may struggle to connect with the characters. Brown and his wife seem unapproachable, almost unappealing in their disconnectedness. They are so cool and calm in all of their dealings that it is difficult to believe that they are indeed human. The moment Greve comes on the scene, however, the cool façade shatters and true characters are revealed. His presence is so strong that it inspires a range of emotions in the supporting roles, from lust to soul-shattering uncertainty. At that point, audience members will have no trouble relating to the characters-they become very real, very fast. That connection, though belated, makes the ensuing violence even more alarming.

Tyldum has created an undeniably slick, smooth movie that speaks to its Scandinavian roots. The film uses technology to its advantage, focusing on gadgets and high-tech devices that illustrate the high-flying lifestyles of the main characters. Each shot in the film is timed with precision and the action flows seamlessly. Tyldum demonstrates a masterful restraint in his cinematography, using the action to propel the story rather than fancy special effects. The result is undeniably pleasing and allows the plot to move quickly.

Overall, "Headhunters" is an exciting, thrilling movie that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Even with subtitles, the energy from the actors comes through, loud and clear. Combined with excellent camera work and fine direction, the movie promises to be an adventurous experience for action and suspense lovers.