"The candidate was terrified."
That's the opening line from the first chapter of Jo Nesbø's black comedy-thriller Headhunters. And one wonders whether the best-selling author had similar feelings about seeing one of his works reaching the big screen. But if Nesbø had any sleepless nights he needn't have worried, because this movie only enhances his – pardon the on-page and now on-screen pun – reputation. If you've read the book, you'll think director Morten Tyldum has done a fine job of bringing the characters and calamities to life. And if you haven't read it, you'll want to know more about anti-hero Roger Brown – someone you can root for and want to see get his comeuppance at the same time.
Apart from unresolved issues about his stature (or rather lack of it), Brown (Hennie) is a man who seems to have it all: top of the heap in the executive recruitment industry with a beautiful wife (Macody Lund) and dream home. But being under average height isn't Brown's only problem: he's drowning in debt. His mortgage costs a fortune and he's bankrolling the missus' art gallery and buying her too many expensive gifts.
So, to make ends meet, Brown turns to crime. But nothing as mundane as white collar crime, oh no - Brown becomes an art thief. He steers candidates' job interviews around to what's hanging on their walls and then, with the help of his pal in a top alarm company, robs their houses and hangs up high quality forgeries instead.
Enter Clas Greve (Game of Thrones star Coster-Waldau), a former soldier and retired CEO who appears on Brown's radar because a GPS company needs a new boss. He's led a colourful life, has the perfect CV and, crucially, owns a masterpiece...
If you like your films fast and slick, Headhunters should prove to be an enjoyable 108 minutes. Certain elements of the book - eg Greve's excellent backstory - have been trimmed and changed, while twists are revealed much earlier, but for a tightly-budgeted movie it's still a value-for-money rollercoaster ride. We're due to see a Hollywood makeover in the future, although whether any star will steal the show like Norwegian actor Hennie is debatable. Acting royalty in his home country, his turn as the man who dives into a world of crap (literally) has International Breakout Performance stamped all over it and one can see plenty of producers looking for Hennie's number. As for Coster-Waldau, he's perfectly cast as alpha male Greve, but it would've been nice to see more of the verbal exchanges between his character and Hennie's in the book making the final cut.
If you're still wavering about buying a ticket, then try this: proceeds from Headhunters (movie and book) go to Nesbø's Harry Hole Foundation, which fights child illiteracy in the Third World. How apt that a story about the worst of human nature should also be a way to help the best.