Headhunters (Hodejegerne) Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

Headhunters/Hodejegerne (2011)

Starring Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Directed by Morten Tyldum


The protagonist of the movie adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s novel Headhunters doesn’t have a name, for now. He’s simply a man wearing a ninja outfit, instructing us on how to steal a painting. It shows the audience his physicality, a man trying to infiltrate and escape until those abilities of his are extinguished.  The scene is surprisingly a deal maker, a contrast against the lack of sympathy we would otherwise inflict upon Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) – what kind of Norwegian name is Roger Brown? Is this movie already pitching itself for an American remake? Anyway, Roger is the façade half of his double life as a member of the credit card bourgeoisie, equipped with a tall art dealer wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) and a stylish house to compensate for his height. Roger is a titular head hunter, using his high level human resources job to slip expensive paintings out of men who are applying to be CEOs, who apparently look like male models, in Pathfinder, the company he works in. These establishing scenes are crucial and effective because from this point on it’s all about negotiation from one part of the premise to a calculated audience reaction.

He might just meet his match when Diana introduces him to a Danish ex-paramilitary man, ex-CEO Clas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, looking like a younger but scruffier Olivier Martinez). There are mixes of emotions within Roger here, he’s jealous of Clas but he also offers him the job that he doesn’t seem to want. What further attracts Roger to Clas is that the latter’s dead grandmother used to go out with art thieves called the Nazis – the Scandinavians still have a morbid fascination with those guys – and has given her a Rubens painting that’s been missing for decades. Diana appraises it, he steals it. Part of his modus operandi is reprinting the artwork he wants to steal and switching it because apparently canvases that have been MIA since WWII would have high-definition colour jpegs floating around somewhere. Or that Roger or the story isn’t grateful enough to include the forger a cut of the money he’s earning. I’m an Art History major, I know what I’m talking about. Whatever. Anyway, the painter becomes the doll in this sleek rendition of the Night of the Hunter story, because when Clas figures out that he’s been robbed, he’s going to come after Roger with full force.

The movie’s second half is a chase thriller that can’t be portrayed as scary or sincere so they’re played up for laughs, like a Slumdog Millionaire reference (you know, the really gross part). Other elements passed off as comedy are ludicrous sexuality and animal cruelty. These scenes are over the top and give us two things we might want. First is the Schadenfreude of watching a member of the 1% – a self-made man but a 1%-er nonetheless – suffer and be degraded by half of the things on the liquid abject list. Second is that it’s fun, as we join him and his small body escape or hide through the most grueling and graphic scenarios that other characters won’t be lucky enough to survive. The two men come face to face multiple times, and Roger deals with Clas in different and hilarious ways. And besides his psychological issues he’s still a smart guy – for most of the time he knows how to hide his tracks. Surprisingly, the death-defying scenarios aren’t the most ludicrous parts of this plot – the subplot concerning Diana made me eyes roll. This is a movie drenched in grossness that I feel guilty for liking it, but I do.

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Troll Hunter (Trolljegeren) – The Royal (Toronto)

Try to think of the world’s most dangerous job – go ahead, I’ll wait.

All done?

Did you come up with crocodile dentist? Bio-warfare experimental subject? Cyanide sommelier? They are all wrong. The correct answer is Troll Hunter.

It turns out that troll hunting isn’t as heroic as it sounds. The hours are long, the benefits are lousy and as I mentioned, it’s dangerous as hell. Also, don’t even bother applying if you’re a Christian, the trolls will smell you miles away.

Anyone keeping up with the maven lately knows that I have been on a horror movie tear. With Midnight Madness at TIFF approaching in September and the Toronto After Dark festival following in October, I can’t seem to satisfy my appetite for new horror flicks. That’s exactly why I was drawn out to The Royal (608 College St. , West of Bathurst) on a Saturday night, when I should have been going out on a date with my girlfriend or having some beers with the guys. However, there was a big problem with the latter two options…not enough trolls.

The Royal promised to deliver Troll Hunter at 9:15pm, and Troll Hunter assured that trolliness was going to be a top priority. They each delivered in spades.

I think that The Royal may quickly become one of my favourite theatres in the city. It’s right in the middle of Little Italy, so hungry and thirsty movie-goers don’t have to worry about wasting away from lack of sustenance. The interior is very clean and attractive, it even has angelic like figures adorning platforms to the left and right of the screen. And the chairs! The chairs have a lot of give, so if you really like to lean back during a movie, you will be in heaven. At $10 a ticket ($8 for students), I felt like I was being mistakenly treated like a VIP. If The Royal schedules more films like Troll Hunter, then I will be a regular fixture. On to the movie!

I hope it will not be considered a spoiler if I say that Troll Hunter contained trolls and that troll hunting was an activity the main characters partook in. The story begins with a few students from a College investigating news of a possible bear poacher in Norway. They eventually find the purported poacher and discover that he is in fact a troll hunter by occupation. However, the troll hunter has become somewhat disillusioned and decides that these College students should be allowed to film him on the job. This is quite the opportunity as troll hunting is a very secretive line of work, and as a result the College students jump at the chance.

Troll Hunter delivers on a number of levels, albeit it does take about twenty minutes to get into the hunting itself, which is by far the highlight of the film. The film is a great adventure. As a member of the audience you really feel as if you are part of a special expedition, and without any previous knowledge, you learn the job on the fly. Also, there are some excellent comedic moments during the film. Unlike other films utilizing the shaky cam or ‘reality’ documentary style, such as Blair Witch or Cloverfield, Troll Hunter has a sense of humour. There were multiple scenes that had the entire audience cracking up. Lastly, the trolls were incredible! I actually dislike CG LESS because of this movie. The trolls are awe inspiring and it is impossible to do anything but tremble when their ferocity is on display.

I wasn’t a big fan of Blair Witch style films when I went in to Troll Hunter, and coming out, I’m still not. However, Troll Hunter is a unique breed of film. It borrows from previous films but manages to feel totally unique. I can’t wait to watch it a second time. That said, this is a film that demands to be seen in theatres. A TV, no matter how big, just wouldn’t do it justice.

Troll Hunter is on at The Royal until Thursday, August 25th. In case you don’t like shaky cam movies, I should say that I didn’t find the picture to be that shaky.

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