At 5ft 6in, Roger Brown exists below the average Scandinavian male’s height. In every other aspect, however, Brown is anything but average. He owns a large modern house, has an immaculately beautiful wife, and is Norway’s top corporate headhunter. Oh, and one more thing — in his free time, he’s an art thief.
Brown is the protagonist of Headhunters, Norway’s highest-grossing film of all time. His day job, thieving hobby, insecurities, and immaculately beautiful wife all collide to form this darkly comedic thriller in which he, the headhunter, becomes headhunted by one of his clients.
During a party at her art gallery, Brown’s wife Diana introduces him to Clas Greve, a half-Dutch half-Norwegian executive who’s interested in a position at Pathfinder, a GPS company that Brown recruits for. Brown’s not interested — until Diana mentions that Greve owns a rare Rubens painting worth tens of millions of kroner. With a heist as motivation, Brown buddies up to Greve, playing squash with the man and learning that, among other personal details, he used to serve in a Dutch special forces unit that specialized in tracking people. Fun stuff!
With all this human intelligence in hand, Brown successfully steals the Rubens while Greve isn’t home and encounters a bonus discovery: evidence that Diana is sleeping with Greve. Angered, Brown denies Greve the position at Pathfinder. But the story doesn’t end there. The next day, Brown finds his friend Ove, a security company employee who assists his art heists, poisoned in his Lexus. As Brown begins to panic and assess the situation, he comes to a frightening realization: Greve is using his special forces training to hunt him down.
So begins a violent, dark-humored headhunting expedition across the forested landscapes of Norway. The journey is perilous, filled with stinky toilets, vicious dogs, and fat cops. At every corner there’s a plot twist to keep things fresh; our characters never have a moment of respite. Headhunters feels like a heist movie, with slight hints of Ocean Eleven’s cocky humor and flares of testosterone, except the heist isn’t the point.
As the plot advances, it becomes more absurd — so the characters respond with ever more ingenious, and entertaining, actions. The movie’s body count is quite high and graphic, but executed with such an innovative flair that every new instance of someone dying is an occasion for twisted laughter.
It’s easy to see why Headhunters was a hit at the box office; it doesn’t require a huge amount of thought to enjoy, but probably took a decent amount of thought to make. While “hunter v. hunted” and art thievery aren’t necessarily the most original genres in the world, the film puts a witty, fresh spin on them both. As a blockbuster, Headhunters, like Roger Brown, is anything but average.
Headhunters (Norwegian: Hodejegerne)–Directed by Morten Tyldum. First released August 2011. Running time 1hr 40min. Starring Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.