As a film it is not what I am familiar with from the Scandinavians who tend to draw out their drama rather than deliver it in rapid fire sequences. It seemed so produced for a US audience: fast paced, action filled, plots and subterfuge everywhere. The need is to hit a home viewer spot where instant gratification is at its most needy. Having become an addict to The Killing, the subtitles in this one seemed incongruous. They work better where there is less action, dialogue, giving the viewer time to absorb what they read.
When the Americans get their hands on these things for the purpose of a remake they tend to ruin them. US film concerns produce great originals but fare badly when trying to mould original Scandinavian work to fit the eyes of a home audience. Placing The Killing in Seattle and away from Copenhagen was a disaster.
It is an old truism that the film is never as good as the book. Not yet having read Headhunters – my wife left her copy on a book exchange shelf at Belfast Central’s train station a while back – I wonder how the truism can hold true in all cases. For this is one great film.
Roger Brown is an art thief. He has an accomplice called Ove who assists him because the money is good, easily obtained and helps finance the sex games that he loves to play. Roger’s wife is tall, blonde and purpose-made stunning. She requires a lot of servicing and Roger is forever on the go trying to keep her in the life style she is accustomed to, working as a headhunter for a business corporation, coupled with a an interest in art, stolen art to be more precise. He combines the two seamlessly. The people he interviews for the job he ferrets information out of. Through a range of probing but business-masked questions Roger ascertains if they own art work, are at home during the day or if they have a dog. Armed with the info the raid is carried out.
That Roger’s wish has a disposition for a different type of servicing, provided by somebody other than Roger, adds highly inflammable accelerant to an already incendiary set of circumstances. As ever, a good plot for the viewer becomes really good when it starts to go bad for the characters. And it all goes pear shaped when a Peter Paul Rubens artwork is stolen.
Violent and gory, it is not without its moments of light relief accompanied by a slight touch of caricaturing of the crime fiction genre, something which probably works better on screen than on paper.
Life chugs along in its illegal but level way, unpunctuated by anything wholly unanticipated, until the dramatic entrance of Clas Greve, an ex-special forces operative as interested in Roger’s wife as he is in Roger’s business. Then the lift off from illegality to homicide is rapid. Ruthless and murderous, the tongue in cheek sediments that layer the film never allow Greve to emerge as the awesome Mr French from the Departed. Ray Winstone might just have inscribed an aura too menacing into a sub text that would have found difficulty warranting it.
The chase is on and the headhunter becomes the hunted, having on one occasion to duck his hunted head under a tub of excrement to keep it atop his shoulders.
Fat cops who serve as bodyguards in the most unintentional but authentic of ways, Nordic scenic beauty, art work and art thieves, facetiousness never far beneath the surface, it is not what we have come to expect from the Scandinavians. Americanised but without carrying the serious deport of Swedish and Danish crime writing, it fashions a blend somewhere between the two. The movie-goer is unlikely to ask for their money back.