Gotta hand it to those Scandinavian crime novelists when it comes to tales filled with nasty doings, theyve set the gold standard. Fans of Stieg Larssons Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy will know what I mean, what with all the rape, torture, murder and corruption in those books.
But Larsson was just following in a long line that stretches from the 1970s Martin Beck novels (The Laughing Policeman, etc.) to the current works of Swedish master Henning Mankell (the Inspector Wallender series).
Now here comes Headhunters, based on a book by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø, and if its not as dark as Larssons work theres a distinct streak of black humor throughout it takes the dirty dealings of the Dragon Tattoo series and kicks them up.
Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a diminutive (5-foot-6, as he constantly reminds us) man who works for a high-end executive search firm. He also has a second career as an art thief, using the in-depth interviews he conducts with clients to find out if they have any expensive paintings or prints, then stealing them.
Roger does this for cash to keep his impossibly gorgeous wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) happy, but when he decides to rip off a masterwork owned by Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones), a high-tech executive who is also a former special forces-type soldier, he gets more than he bargained for.
The plot is crazy, funny, violent, not always believable and comes hurtling at you with the speed of a Norwegian penalty kick. Directed with pedal-to-the-metal efficiency by Morten Tyldum you just know this guy will get a Hollywood invite soon Headhunters is an entertaining piece of work.
But its definitely not for the faint of heart or those who prefer crime novel comfort food, if only because it has:
• A scene involving one of the most disgusting hiding places you can imagine.
• A sicko sequence featuring a dead dog, a tractor and a highway chase.
• Various brutalities, including a mind-boggling car crash and a killing shot fired from a unique perspective.
You either go along with the ride or you get off rather quickly.
If nothing else, Headhunters takes the dourness of the genre and turns it on its head, adding a streak of mordant humor that is quite refreshing. Its the kind of film where you go through a range of emotions, from disgust to revulsion, from outright laughter to Oh, my God, I cant believe theyre doing that!
Which is maybe the whole point I cant believe they made a movie this crazy sick. And this darn entertaining.