Oslo’s most successful executive recruiter, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is really not as successful as he seems. At least, he’s not that successful as a headhunter. He uses his job to get inside information on wealthy corporate executives who own valuable pieces of art, which Roger then steals and sells through a European fence. His accomplice is Ove (Eivind Sander), an employee of a home security alarm company. Ove provides keys and turns off the house alarm allowing Roger to enter and leave easily.
All of this to support Roger’s extravagant lifestyle — a multi-million dollar house, a gorgeous (and tall) wife Dianne (Synnøve Macody Lund), and expensive cars — which he uses to try to make up for his own insecurities.
When his art gallery owner wife Diane introduces Roger to a rich client in posession of a lost masterpiece worth millions, Roger decides to risk it all to make a big score. Unfortunately, this time he steals from the wrong person. Wealthy former mercenary Clas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones”) somehow learns of Roger’s activities and begins a deadly game of cat-and-mouse.Coming off as both arrogant and insecure, Roger is not the easiest character to like. But the film builds sympathy for him, and I found myself reluctantly pulling for him in the end.
Hennie does a wonderful job of making a complex, amoral scoundrel someone want to prevail. Coster-Waldau comes off as charming at first, but a psychopathic streak soon appears, and he pulls it off well. Viewers more familiar with his work on “Game of Thrones” won’t have too much difficulty accepting that, but “Headhunters” came a bit before “Game of Thones” made Coster-Waldau’s Jaime Lannister a household name.
I couldn’t help but feel that given the source material, many filmmakers would have simply adapted a screenplay involving the surface elements: an art thief steals from the wrong guy, and what happens next. It’s obvious that Jo Nesbø’s novel is a page-turner, and I was delighted to see this film play out with all the depth and suspense of a good book.
Without giving too much away, I’ll say that there is MUCH more going on here than it seems at first. The plot twists are well-disguised and played out masterfully.
Smart, bold, bloody and suspenseful — if a bit far-fetched — “Headhunters” is nevertheless an engrossing film. Outrageously violent in parts and yet still charming and even funny at times, Headhunters is a well made, smart thriller.