Jo Nesbo's Headhunters (Hodejegerne) review (2012, dir. Morten Tyldum)

Comfortably replete with Jarlsberg Cheese, Vikingfjord Vodka and some wonderful Scandinavian pastries you could be forgiven for thinking I'd forgotten I was here to review a film. But this was just the very genial introduction to a new Norwegian film hitting UK shores in April.

I settled, satisfied, into my seat for what I expected from the trailer to be a straightforward, nuts and bolts thriller but Headhunters is much more than that. It is a surprising and hilariously tricksy film with a darkly comic and quite sadistic inner-core.

Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) has all the trappings of a respectable businessman, complete with smart car, suits, wife and house. His snappy moves have earned him a role as a man for head-hunting the best corporate talent. Only his diminutive stature provides any level of self-doubt. However, his life is a minutely assembled and shock-proofed lie, as it transpires his fortune is amassed almost entirely from art-theft.

At a party he is introduced to the suave Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, known to US/UK audiences from Game of Thrones). Roger spots an opportunity to end his criminal career with the biggest theft of all, the valuable Ruebens painting at Clas's apartment. His accomplice, Ove, will sneak the painting out of the country and onto the black market.

On executing the plan things go disastrously awry. What appeared to be a simple art heist leads to questions about Roger's wife's fidelity. Then the story becomes a chase across the Norwegian country-side as Roger evades a relentless assassin. As he runs, the tension, set-pieces and improbability escalate. Traps and schemes become ever more inventive and no one can be trusted. Headhunters evolves into something wild and unpredictable. Escapades involving skewered dogs, errant tractors, a large amount of faecal matter and flying cars are some of the obstacles added to the delirious brew.

Headhunters won't set the world alight in terms of acting, direction or artistry but for 98 minutes you will laugh, wince and tremble as our hero, Roger, is wrung through the wringer and then wrung again through an ever more twisted set of wringers, each wringer more cruel and twisted than the last. A tense, hilarious and evil viewing experience which will keep you guessing.

Headhunters is released in the UK and Ireland on April 6th. Find the trailer here.


A Horrible Way To Die review (2010, dir. Adam Wingard)

Adam Wingard's 2010 film stands as an impressive achievement. Intense performances; a restrained and understated script and a twisted, thrilling tale. But undermining all of this, a few creative decisions threaten to derail the film entirely. Does what remains withstand this onslaught? Is the powerful substance more than the alienating style?

Set in Midwestern America the film is a taut horror/thriller concerning a recovering alcoholic coming to terms with a past relationship which was not what it seemed. At an alcoholic support-group, Sarah (Amy Seimetz) meets fellow troubled-soul Kevin (Joe Swanberg) who asks for a date. Meanwhile her ex-boyfriend, serial-killer Garrick (A J Bowen), has violently absconded from gaol and is making a viscera-strewn path back home.

Sarah's relationship and drinking are going well and it appears she has turned her life around. Then her past collides with her present in a wholly unexpected way. What follows presents us with a unique and daring twist on the serial killer genre. Past and present are melded without confusion as we observe first hand how Sarah and Garrick once shared a loving relationship.

And all of this would make for a simply-told, solid film were it not for the directorial style. Shot entirely with a constantly swaying, hand-held camera, even the most motion-sick resistant will find themselves challenged not to succumb to giddy nausea. The lens never looks like it is more than a few centimetres from the actors faces. The depth of field is so shallow background detail is lost in a blurred haze. Establishing shots are few, landscapes are non-existent and no opportunity is missed to de-focus or pan away from the action. This is a great shame because such a self-conscious attempt at disorientating the viewer detracts from the naturalistic performances.

If you think you can maintain your concentration through these distancing techniques then A Horrible Way To Die is an un-sensationalist story with a shocking twist. Just don't expect to walk away without a certain amount of vertigo.

Released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on March 19th.