F.I.L.M. of the Week (November 7, 2014)

7 11 2014

Headhunters

Professional rivalries often run cold, but rarely (save perhaps “Passion“/”Love Crime“) do they ever turn as dangerous as they do in “Headhunters.”  This compelling Norwegian action flick from Morten Tyldum, who has since turned in Oscar-worthy work on “The Imitation Game,” packs some true thrills into its 100 minute runtime.  The manner in which Tyldum provides this entertainment, however, is hardly derivative.

“Headhunters” is my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” (as a reminder, that’s First-Class, Independent Little-Known Movie) because it’s the rare genre film where action sequences bolster the plot rather than replacing it altogether.  Tyldum directs the violence to advance the film’s core conflicts; it’s not just there to inspire agape reactions at an impressive effects reel.

Even though things escalate quickly, “Headhunters” never loses its grip on reality (a la every recent Liam Neeson movie).  The film begins with its figurative corporate headhunter, Aksel Hennie’s Roger Brown, compensating for his small frame with an expensive house, a dime of a girlfriend … and a side habit of stealing art to sustain it all.  One job swindling his client Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) gets Roger in a little too deep.  All of a sudden, he finds himself entangled in a disastrous web with people who take on his job title in a much more literal sense.

What ensues is an action movie as it should be done.  “Headhunters” has actual stakes that feel real to all the participants, especially during its violent segments.  Tyldum requires attention in these interludes, too, because they are more than just a momentary obstacle to the inevitable triumph of the hero.  They are human clashes that could go any number of ways.  Now that is excitement.

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