Headhunters is a ludicrous romp of a film, a silly film even, but in a dares-to-go-there style that I can't help but admire. Director Morten Tyldum uses vibrant colors and non-stop action to convey the story of one man's comeuppance and eventual redemption. Whether or not protagonist Roger deserves redemption is a question that the Norwegian film, based on Jo Nesbo's novel, is unequal to answering, but the journey is nonetheless entertaining as hell.
Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie in a startlingly assured performance) is a self-important corporate headhunter who struts around at 5'5 in expensive suits and overly-coiffed hair. He's great at what he does, and he makes a small fortune doing it. His stunning, leggy wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) towers over him, and Roger feels constantly compelled to lavish her with expensive gifts to compensate for their difference in height and attractiveness. He spends so much money maintaining Diana that his tony headhunting job can't support them both, so Roger's decided to supplement his income by starting a high risk and reward art thievery business. As he interviews prospective employees for his corporate clients, he learns the most minute details of their lives--details that he then uses to plot foolproof heists into their homes, replacing their priceless works of art with impeccable forgeries.
Roger is not a likable guy. He's slick and smug, he treats his assistant like shit and he emotionally manipulates the employees he's interviewing in a way that is disheartening and frankly gross to watch--to say nothing of the fact that all the while, he's scheming to rob them. He's cheating on his kind, gorgeous, brilliant wife with a woman he cares nothing about in order to bolster his own ego. So when things start to go wrong for Roger--more wrong than you could possibly anticipate--it's really fun to watch. Roger decides to steal from the wrong man, ex-military and GPS technology maverick Clas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and soon his job, marriage, life and sanity are teetering precariously on a very thin wire.
Headhunters is a few different films in one: black comedy, character study, heist movie and shockingly gory splatter flick. Tyldum maintains a breezy, silly tone that serves the hijinks well. As Roger flees from Clas, the odds stack against him in a Rube Goldbergian manner, and soon Roger is impaling dogs, dry-shaving his head, shooting friends and wading through literal shit in his attempts to escape and survive.
The film falters when it tries to push the audience back on Roger's side. As we revel in watching Roger get punished for being such a shitheel, the film switches abruptly into an attempt to make Roger a sympathetic character fighting to put his life back to rights. The ending is remarkably pat after such a noisy clattering of complication piled on complication, but with Roger's sharp wits and quick instincts, the audience could almost believe that he could pull off this last great con. What we can't buy is that he deserves to pull it off--Roger sucks, and he should be penalized for it.
Despite a too-tidy ending, Headhunters is a blast thanks to the crisp performances and maniacal daring of the film. This movie goes to completely unexpected places--bloody, horrifying, totally fucked up places--all while maintaining a refreshingly detached sense of humor. It's not perfect, but it's always fun.