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Adapted from the 2008 novel by bestselling author Jo Nesbo, Headhunters is a story of double lives and double crosses. Our outwardly confident but secretly insecure antihero, Roger Brown, is an executive headhunter by day and burglar by night, stealing valuable artwork in order to fund his lavish lifestyle and his wife’s expensive tastes. However, his extravagance still outweighs his illegitimate earnings and the debts are piling up, so Roger jumps at the opportunity to steal an original Rubens piece from a new client. Little does he know that this client is also not all he appears to be, and his actions will start a chain of events that puts his life in danger.
Directed by Morten Tyldum, who would go on to win the Best Director Oscar for The Imitation Game, Headhunters unfolds with quick pace and retains this momentum across an exhilarating 100 minutes. While it utilises all of the well-known elements you’d expect, Tyldum manages to bring a fresh angle to action-thriller tropes, never failing when upping the ante of excitement or pulling off an unexpected twist.
A good portion of Jo Nesbo’s noir atmosphere is missing in the film but has been replaced by an air of black comedy that perfectly fits the tone, bringing slight shades of humorous brightness to otherwise macabre scenes. Aksel Hennie performs with a convincing sense of shocked fright as his character’s world collapses, while his opposite number Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (made famous by Game Of Thrones) makes for a excellent screen nemesis, physically imposing and terrifyingly competent.
Headhunters remains the highest grossing Norwegian film of all time and its success has led to discussions about an English-language remake, now thought to be slated as a future HBO TV production. But don’t be put off by the subtitles of Tyldum’s adaptation as it’s an absolutely gripping example of a thriller done correctly, gleefully twisted and brutally violent.
Headhunters is available to stream on Netflix in the UK & USA.