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Monday 16 April 2012

Headhunters (2011), Film directed by Morten Tyldum based on the novel by Jo Nesbø, 7* out of 10

“Short people got nobody
Short people got nobody
Short people got nobody
To love

They got little baby legs
That stand so low
You got to pick em up
Just to say hello
They got little cars
That go beep, beep, beep
They got little voices
Goin' peep, peep, peep
They got grubby little fingers
And dirty little minds
They're gonna get you every time
Well, I don't want no short people”

from Short People, music an lyrics by Randy Newman

In 1977 the still brilliantly active singer-songwriter Randy Newman brought out his album “Little Criminals” with contained the controversial song “Short People”. As Newman saw it, the lyrics were written from the point of view of a maniacal bigot prejudiced against short people. As the song became a hit, Newman ended up hating it, since the irony of its original intent had got lost on a great number of its fans. 

The narrator and hero of Headhunters, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), is 1m68cm (5 ft 6 inches) tall. He makes it clear to us in the first scenes that compensating for lack of physical height is key to understanding what drives him. Yet there is more to him than meets the eye. Senior Executive Search Consultant in the morning, burglar of paintings in the afternoon, he is constantly in financial trouble. The reasons his expenses consistently exceed his not inconsiderable income are many. There is Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund), the tall attractive trophy-wife whose new art-gallery he has to finance, the designer house with the its stylish interior in the Norwegian countryside, the big powerful luxury coupe and last not least the made to measure suits. 

Diana introduces Roger to Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the tall and handsome ex-elite soldier turned ex-Chief Executive Officer of a high-tech defence firm. Greve has just taken early retirement, but Roger sees his chance to earn a big fee for tempting him back into a new high tech firm. As luck has it Greve also is the owner of a valuable painting that captures Roger's moonlighting-job interest, too. In two fell swoops, Roger's financial problems might be over; but if all this seems too good to be true, that maybe so, because it is. From here the plot develops into a quite entertaining thriller with a bit of sex and violence ( against people as well as a dog) and a considerable number of twists and turns. 

Scandinavian crime novels, films and TV series are in fashion: There is Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy, Henning Mankell's Wallander series and the recent Danish television offerings The Killing and Borgen. And now the Norwegian bestseller writer Jo Nesbø has moved in where Swedish and Danish creatives have shown the way. Headhunters is the first of his books to make it to the silver screen and international release.

The problem with Headhunters is that the plot seems to be constructed first and then peopled by the characters. The transition of scenes from hard hitting realism to comedy is not very well handled and often leaves the viewer a bit unpleasantly confused. It's not that easy to identify with any of the characters and their predicaments. Having said that, Headhunters has its moments, the plot its twists and turns and, all in all, they do make this thriller quite watchable.

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