★★★★ / ★★★★
In order to maintain his lavish lifestyle, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), a corporate recruiter, broke into art collectors’ homes, replaced their prized possessions with cheap counterfeits, and sold the real ones for a whole lot of money. When Roger met Clas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a former employee of a company that specialized in GPS nanotechnology, he thought it would be another easy-picking. But Clas, equipped with military experience and hunting people of interest, somehow was able to figure out what Roger and his partner (Eivind Sander) were planning. “Hodejegeme,” based on a novel by Jo Nesbø, had a surprising build-up because instead of convincing us that Roger was likable, despite his extracurricular activity as a cat burglar, so that our sympathies would be with him through his upcoming trials, we were bombarded by one scene after another that showcased him as not being a very good guy. Although he showered his wife, Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund), with nice gifts, he conveniently always had his foot out the door when she needed to talk about their future. On top of it all, Roger cheated on Diana with a woman named Lotte (Julie R. Ølgaard) even though Roger saw no viable future with the latter. Through an occasionally comedic narration, he had no problem admitting to us that since he only stood at about 5″6′, he felt the need to overcompensate in a lot of ways. The humor and drama that carried the exposition were subverted by acts of violence so abrupt, when they did arrive, I caught myself questioning whether what I saw really did just happen. As more thriller elements were introduced, there was a noticeable change in the environment. What once what bright and glitzy turned dark and portentous. For instance, the first third mostly took place inside extravagant homes and posh offices filled with men in expensive suits while the middle portion occurred in forested areas where mud and muck reigned supreme. The changes in setting was expertly utilized as Roger was placed in front of seemingly insurmountable and labyrinthine challenges. What I found most astounding was that even though Roger was not a typical good guy, we rooted for him nonetheless because he was so outmatched by Clas in physicality, cunningness, and experience. Clas even commanded a ferocious dog capable of killing a man who could handle himself well. The entire time, the question that lingered in my brain was how in the world Roger could extricate himself from the predicament that he himself jumped into. He may not have been the most lovable guy but it was without a doubt that watching his determination to live was highly entertaining. I wished, however, that there had been more scenes of the detective, Brede Sperre (Reidar Sørensen), in charge of investigating stolen art. We saw him in the most random scenes looking very solemn or deep in thought but we didn’t actually observe him performing his job. I got the impression that Sørensen’s character was a victim of editing. Instead of potentially playing the most interesting and conflicted character, Inspector Sperre ended up looking like a cheap joke which was unnecessary. “Headhunters,” directed by Morten Tyldum, is a good example of how pacing, if done right, can be a great source of suspense alongside a script with good ideas. This is most effective when the pacing slows down just a bit for us to be able to relish the little emotions beyond general categories like pain or fear.