A rather appealing if throwaway cat and mouse thriller, Headhunters introduces us immediately to the forcefully charming persona and slick art-thievery methods of its protagonist, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie). His criminal activities subsidize a career as über-successful corporate headhunter, but he makes no bones about having overextended himself for the sake of his Nordic model-beautiful wife, ostentatiously luxurious lifestyle, and 1m 68 height (5’6”).
So sure of himself is Roger that he cannot resist the bait of a lost Rubens in the apartment of impossibly handsome Dutchman Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), for whom he may also be able to land a prime CEO position. His research swiftly reveals, however, that said Dutchman is also ex missing persons special ops and developer of high tech personal tracking equipment (micro-transmitters!); it’d be insane to take him on, but such is Roger’s self-belief, and belief in playing for the highest stakes, that he doesn’t think twice.
It’s quickly apparent that this was very far from a good idea, but Roger gets by with a great deal of luck in the early stages of the chase. Basically an obnoxiously arrogant individual, he wins our sympathy due to the frightening efficiency of the man who is hunting him, and an early encounter with those charming Scandinavian toilets. Director Morten Tyldum keeps things rattling along at a smart pace, with a decent amount of inventiveness even if, for example, the usefulness of two fat cops or the tines of a tractor fork are identifiable in advance (the former raises a chuckle).
It is all plenty good-humoured – Roger’s jovial security firm accomplice is particularly amusing in his naked gunplay-foreplay with a Russian prostitute girlfriend – but the tone wavers when Tybald decides he wants us to take things seriously (the music is frequently not in on the joke). Brown is also subjected to a remarkable amount of physical punishment – a self-executed head-shaving is actually quite grueling – so when both his art-thievery and people-judging skills kick in at the end, and it all turns out alright, we cannot help but mind too much that the criminal has gotten away with it. The other criminal was far more cold-blooded, and Brown’s not actually gotten anything but his life back, gained a deeper understanding of himself and his relationship, confronted his insecurities and tempered his hubris. And occasionally bathetic missteps aside, it’s all been in good fun.