|'a film about manhood, the concept of masculinity, the way we let it shape and alter us'|
Headhunters is a film masquerading as several things. At first glance, if you enter it cold, it is a film about, well, headhunters; overpaid people in suits who spend their days meeting more overpaid people in suits. Delve not much further beyond the surface and this is a film about an art thief. Roger (Aksel Hennie) may be a headhunter by profession but he is a thief by trade and a successful one at that. Really though, Morten Tyldum's film of Jo Nesbø's novel is about neither of those things.
What it is actually about is manhood, the concept of masculinity, the way we let it shape and alter us. Roger wants the sharp suits, the big house, the fancy car, the gorgeous wife (Synnøve Macody Lund). He admits to us through narration very early on that he is 'compensating' for his lack of physical perfection. Does Roger ever stop to think if he needs all this? Does he ask his wife if she wants the gorgeous things he buys her? Ultimately Roger is weak, obsessed by asserting his masculine authority, by seeking out masculine thrills (robbery, affairs, meeting in shady shacks). When the ultimate male adventure arrives on his doorstep he panics and wants rid of it. Roger's preening is his downfall. Reality is more brutish than keeping up appearances.
As such Headhunters is a clever film, a thrilling ride which deconstructs the fractured nature of the male id. But for such a well negotiated subtext, it comes complete with more plot leaps of believability than you can shake a very expensive art forgery at. An early twist in proceedings comes about when Roger, on the job (the illegal job), in a rush, professional, inexplicably stops to make a phone call. Hey? Has he forgotten his own narration, where he told us that, strictly, only be at the scene of the crime for ten minutes? Then there's the eventual chase. Strong, marauding Nikolaj Coster-Waldau bounding over scenery in pursuit of our anti-hero. Does no-one notice him, notice the destruction being left in his wake? How does Roger - weedy, small, ill-suited to combat - keep bloody surviving? When faced by a massive articulated lorry bearing down on him, why exactly does the policeman decide to stand in front of it? There are holes here and they are distracting.
The cast sell all this to us with brave faces and strong performances. Hennie is impressively unlikeable, Coster-Waldau continues his strong showing in Game Of Thrones, Lund, making her film debut, is something approaching revelatory. So it's a shame that it feels sharp and blunt at the same time, unsatisfying even, like a business meeting where everyone is really clever and the substance is all there but the coherent dialogue is lacking, forced or absent. It is impressive enough in many ways, but it is also fair to expect more.