|Ahh, reminds me of my own fraternity days... *lights pipe, puffs, whimsically strokes the head of stuffed pledge*|
So imagine you and your significant other decide to go out for a fancy dinner. You agree to patronize an establishment that’s somewhat off the beaten path that serves a cuisine you’re not entirely familiar with, but one in which you’ve read some favorable reviews of online and hey, you’re an adventurous couple, why the hell not? You arrive to find a warm, comfortable ambience and friendly wait staff. Your appetizer soon arrives and you find it delightfully inviting, only further whetting your appetite for the entrée. And what an entrée it is. Perfectly cooked, beautifully presented and utterly satisfying, you feel like you’ve consumed one the best meals you’ve had in months. But then the dessert is wheeled out. And. It. Sucks. Like, f*cking putrid. Generic, tasteless and completely lacking any relation to the previous two dishes, the final portion of the meal ruins your experience. You walk out disappointed and finally determine you really need to stop approaching your meals like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.
But in all seriousness, that is what watching Headhunters was kind of like. The film sucks you in with a cool, almost detached tone, ala Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven, as if you're some lucky Joe Schmo given the fantastic opportunity to observe a world we all only read about in the newspaper. You become immediate witness to the double life led by protagonist Roger Brown (played by the outstanding Aksel Hennie), who earns a seemingly legitimate living as a top-notch corporate recruiter. But we soon learn that Brown is living a double life, coupling as a high-end art thief so that he can stem his own insecurities about not being able to provide every conceivable luxury to his beautiful wife (Synnove Macody Lund).
Now as I'm sure you could determine, Roger's artful thieveries (ha!) get him into some serious sh*t which is embodied by none other than our boy Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, aka Jaime Lannister of Game of Thrones fame (actually, for what it's worth, I feel like Mads Mikkelsen would have been a much more frightening casting). And this is where the film really comes into it's own. Without a moments hesitation, director Morten Tyldum sends us, just like Brown, reeling down an unrelenting journey of of terror and near oblivion. The tone and pace mutate from one of slick coolness to glacial horror. There is pervasive sense of inevitable doom and savage rawness that pervades the second third of this movie that would make the likes of Park Chan-wook squirm with glee.
And yet by the end, it all feels for naught. The final third of the film bombards the viewer with tedious and tired expository dialogue, character contradictions that are so apparent you would think the director is testing you to see if you were still paying attention, and a random and idiotic "twist", that, in my eyes, completed defeated the purpose of one of the underlying themes of the film. The pacing, which was so perfectly juxtaposed and yet suited for the respective first and second thirds of the movie, becomes one of generic clumsiness. It's as if Tyldum was a medium distance runner that prematurely used up all of his energy in the first two thirds of the race and was forced to spastically stumble across the finish line like a rabid three-legged dog (shut up, that was a good simile). I'll put it in even simpler terms. Imagine this movie like the three X-Men movies. Very solid first part, fantastic second piece, and just huge giant turd for a conclusion.
And it's unfortunate. Solid thrillers feel rare these days, and ones that can blend various genres in a seamless yet jarring manner that leave an indelible impression on the viewer even more so. Too bad it is marred by a Brent Ratneresque ending.
Grade - B-