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'Headhunters' An Artful Movie About Art Thieves

Since the early death at 50 of Stieg Larrson, the author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, crime novel fans have been hunting feverishly for his successor. Many believe that person is Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo, whose Headhunters has been turned into a taut and labyrinthine movie without a tattoo in sight.

The film opens with a primer on how to make forgeries of great art works that are so precise, they can be swapped out for the originals and go undetected for weeks. Such is the expertise of Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), who also recruits rich, successful clients for various corporations, and if the conversation turns toward how much and what kind of art they respectively own, all the better for Brown to exercise his true passion.

New to Oslo and an immediate threat to Brown’s insecurities about his pasty looks and diminished height is the dashing Clas Grave (Game of Throne’s Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a former mercenary who is taken with Brown’s art dealer wife, who barely disguises her mutual attractio). The fact that Grave also happens to have a Rubens painting hanging in his apartment could make revenge taste sweet indeed. Only furty minutes in, things go horribly, gorily wrong.

Director Morten Tyldum is adept at creating crisp, visceral set-ups for scenes that rocket about in violently unpredictable directions (like a fun, stylized shoot-up involving Uzis and milk). And actor Hennie’s gift is in playing a man whose swagger reads as both cocky and insecure yet makes audiences care about and ultimately root for him, especially in the second half, when circumstances bare his secrets , his soul, and his skull.

Up To Date Arts & Culture
Since 1998, Steve Walker has contributed stories and interviews about theater, visual arts, and music as an arts reporter at KCUR. He's also one of Up to Date's regular trio of critics who discuss the latest in art, independent and documentary films playing on area screens.