Headhunters (film)

Headhunter poster.jpg
Norwegian theatrical poster
Directed byMorten Tyldum
Screenplay byLars Gudmestad [no]
Ulf Ryberg
Based onHodejegerne
by Jo Nesbø
Produced byMarianne Gray
Asle Vatn
CinematographyJohn Andreas Andersen
Edited byVidar Flataukan
Music byTrond Bjerknes
Jeppe Kaas
Friland Film
Yellow Bird
Distributed byNordisk Film
Release dates
  • 26 August 2011 (2011-08-26) (Norway)
  • 4 November 2011 (2011-11-04) (Sweden)
Running time
100 minutes
BudgetUSD 3,636,887 [1]
Box officeUSD 15,391,296[2]

Headhunters (Norwegian: Hodejegerne) is a 2011 Norwegian action thriller film based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Jo Nesbø. The film was directed by Morten Tyldum and stars Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Synnøve Macody Lund. Hennie portrays the successful but insecure corporate recruiter Roger Brown who lives a double life as an art thief to fund his lavish lifestyle. He finds out that one of his job prospects is in possession of a valuable painting and sets out to steal it.

Released in Norway on 26 August 2011, Headhunters was a box office success, receiving positive reviews, and was nominated for multiple awards, including four Amanda Awards and a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

It is the highest-grossing Norwegian film in history.[3]


Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), Norway's most successful headhunter, supports his lavish lifestyle by stealing paintings from his clients; his partner, Ove (Eivind Sander), works at a surveillance company and deactivates security at the victims' homes, allowing Roger to swap the art for a counterfeit. Asked to dinner by his mistress, Lotte (Julie Ølgaard), Roger declines and ends their relationship. Roger's wife and art gallery owner, Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund), introduces him to Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a former executive for GPS tech company HOTE. Roger, currently seeking to recruit the next CEO of rival firm Pathfinder, recognizes Clas may be a suitable candidate. Diana reveals that Clas has asked her to authenticate a lost Rubens painting he inherited that is believed to be worth millions.

Roger convinces Clas to meet with him over lunch to discuss the job, and soon learns Clas used to be a member of TRACK, a special forces unit that specialized in tracking people and winner of the European Military pentathlon. He also learns that Clas helped HOTE develop a nanotechnology GPS tracking gel that is difficult to remove. Despite his misgivings, Roger meets with Ove to work out details on stealing the painting. Roger manages to steal it from Clas' home, but he discovers Diana's cellphone beside Clas' bed, implying the two of them are having an affair due to Roger's refusal to have children with Diana. In retaliation, after a seemingly successful meeting with Pathfinder executives, an upset Roger flippantly informs Clas that the company may be looking for someone else to fill the position.

The next morning, Roger finds Ove in his (Roger's) car, apparently dead from a poison syringe embedded in the car seat; just as Roger dumps Ove in a lake, Ove recovers, as he did not get a full dose of the poison. Driving Ove to his cabin, Roger puts him in bed and ignores his demands for medical attention, as he does not want the police involved. Ove pulls a gun in response, causing a shoot-out where Roger accidentally kills Ove. Finding Clas has followed him to Ove's cabin, Roger narrowly escapes after a scuffle. After realising Clas may have used HOTE's GPS gel technology on him, Roger switches his car for Ove's and throws his clothes in a lake, changing into Ove's spare uniform and fleeing to a farm where Ove used to stay. Nevertheless, Clas tails Roger to the farm with his dog and murders the farmer, but Roger evades them. Trying to escape on a tractor, Roger is attacked by Clas' dog, which he kills by impaling it on the tractor's forks. Roger, believing Clas is still chasing him, drives erratically and falls from the tractor, only to find his pursuer is a stranger wanting to help.

Waking in a hospital, Roger learns the police think he is Ove, and arrest him for the farmer's murder when he tries to escape. Driving to the station, the officers pull over to block a truck reported stolen. Roger realizes that Clas is driving the truck, and that Diana may have helped Clas by rubbing the GPS gel into Roger's hair. With Clas approaching, the officers ignore Roger's protests, allowing Clas to ram the car off a cliff. Playing dead until Clas leaves the scene, Roger shaves his head and hides his hair on a deceased officer's body, then swaps clothes with a detective's disfigured body to fake his death.

Roger turns to Lotte for help, only to discover she is working for Clas. Clas, who is still secretly employed by HOTE, was planning to use Roger to get the Pathfinder job and steal their secret technologies. Lotte admits that she put the GPS gel in Roger's hair, absolving Diana, and that she suggested dinner so she could introduce him to Clas; since Roger ended their affair, Clas used a counterfeit Rubens painting to meet Roger through Diana. When Roger lets his guard down, Lotte attacks him with a knife, causing Roger to shoot and kill her in self-defense. Roger returns home and admits everything to Diana, who apologizes for her affair with Clas. The next morning, Roger goes to a morgue to retrieve the remaining evidence linking him to the murders (his cut hair), while Diana contacts Clas to ostensibly resume their affair.

While cleaning Ove's cabin of evidence, Roger is confronted by Clas, who was able to track the GPS gel in the cut hair. Clas gloats that Diana has returned to him, and tries to shoot Roger but fails. Roger fatally wounds Clas with a hidden gun, explaining that Diana only resumed their affair so she could load Clas' gun with blanks. Ove's home security records Clas involved in a shootout, though Roger stays in a camera blind spot near Ove. The footage, combined with evidence doctored by Roger, suggests Ove and Clas were art thieves who killed the farmer, Lotte, then finally each other after a dispute. The police, including star detective Brede Sperre, ignore the minor inconsistencies (Ove's time of death being days earlier than what is implied by the video footage) because Brede knows that leaving the case unsolved would harm his growing reputation. Later, Roger and a visibly pregnant Diana are shown selling their house, and Roger returns to work, giving the Pathfinder job to the client he rejected and robbed at the beginning of the film.


Production and remake[edit]

The Swedish production company Yellow Bird acquired the film rights to Jo Nesbø's 2008 novel Headhunters in 2009.[4] It was the first of Nesbø's novels to be turned into a film.[5] The film was shot in and around Oslo on a budget of 30 million NOK over 40 days.[1] The film lacked aerial shots that they needed but ran out of money and instead archive footage scenes from the Swedish film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was used and was digitally altered to change the type of car.[6]

A Hollywood remake of Headhunters was planned, with the British journalist and screenwriter Sacha Gervasi writing the screenplay.[7] The rights to the English-language remake were sold to the American film studio Summit Entertainment in 2011 while the Norwegian film was still in production.[8][9]


Tracks used in the movie include:[10]

  • "Weathervane" by Weathervane (writing name of Jimmy Gnecco and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy) - over the end credits
  • "Sleep Ferrari" published by Universal Publishing Production Music (no artist given)
  • "Come Arround" [sic] by Goran Obad and Henrik Skarm


The film was released in Norway on 26 August 2011[11] and was seen by 104,000 Norwegian moviegoers in its opening weekend, making it the second best opening weekend in Norwegian history, after Max Manus.[6] It was by far the most-watched domestic film of the year, with 557,086 tickets sold at the cinema, and the second most-watched including foreign films, only beaten by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.[12]


Headhunters received very positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reports a "Certified Fresh" approval rating of 93% based on 98 reviews, with an average rating of 7.63 out of 10. The consensus reads: "Grisly, twisty, and darkly comic, Headhunters is an exhilaratingly oddball take on familiar thriller elements".[13] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 72 out of 100, indicating "generally favorable reviews", based on reviews from 26 critics.[14]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars out of four, praising the film as "an argument for the kinds of thrillers I miss. It entertains with story elements, in which the scares evolve from human behavior. Unlike too many thrillers that depend on stunts, special effects and the Queasy cam, this one devises a plot where it matters what happens. It's not all kinetic energy".[15]

In Norway the film got favourable reviews; with most reviewers following the "die throw" system, where 1 is worst and 6 is best, the vast majority gave 5 points. The die throw of 5 was issued by VG,[16] Dagbladet,[17] Aftenposten,[18] Bergens Tidende,[19] Bergensavisen,[20] Stavanger Aftenblad,[21] Dagsavisen,[22] Fædrelandsvennen,[23] Haugesunds Avis[24] and Hamar Arbeiderblad.[25] The die throw of 4 was issued by Adresseavisen.[26] and Klassekampen.[27] Dagens Næringsliv, called the film "highly acceptable" genre action with a sympathetic lead character.[28]


Headhunters was the first Norwegian film to be nominated for a BAFTA (in the category Best Film Not in the English Language).[29] The film was also nominated for four Amanda Awards: People's Amanda (audience vote), Best Actor, Best Direction and Best Visual Effects, but not for Best Norwegian Film, leading to criticism of the Amanda jury.[30]

Year Award Category Recipient Result
2012 Amanda Award People's Amanda Won
Best Actor Aksel Hennie Nominated
Best Direction Morten Tyldum Nominated
Best Visual Effects Lars Erik Hansen, Jan Svalland Nominated
2013 British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA)[29] Best Film Not in the English Language Nominated
2013 Empire Awards[citation needed] Best Thriller Won
2012 European Film Awards[11] People's Choice Award for Best European Film Nominated
2012 Golden Trailer Awards Best Foreign Action Trailer Nominated
2011 Philadelphia Film Festival Audience Award - Honorable Mention Won
2012 Phoenix Film Critics Society Award Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
2012 San Diego Film Critics Society Awards Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
2013 Saturn Awards[citation needed] Best International Film Won
2012 St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Language Film Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Pål Marius Tingve (12 October 2010). "Aksel (34) klinte til med Garp (2)". Dagbladet (in Norwegian). Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  2. ^ "'Headhunters' (2012)". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
  3. ^ Christopher Rosen (October 27, 2011). "The Norwegian Film That's a Bigger Success Than 'Harry Potter' and 'Transformers'". Archived from the original on 2014-11-29.
  4. ^ "Yellow Bird vil lage Jo Nesbø-film". Rushprint. 12 May 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  5. ^ Kristoffer Pettersen Rambøl and Liza Stokke (13 October 2010). "Se Aksel Hennie i "Hodejegerne"". NRK. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  6. ^ a b Jan Gunnar Furuly (2 September 2011). "Hodejegerne lånte scener fra Stieg Larsson-film" [Headhunters borrowed scenes from Stieg Larsson film]. Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  7. ^ Peder Ottosen (15 December 2011). "Nå skrives Hollywood-versjonen av "Hodejegerne"". Dagbladet (in Norwegian). Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  8. ^ Jorn Rossing Jensen (11 October 2011). "Summit plans English-language remake of Norwegian thriller Headhunters". Screen International. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  9. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (March 8, 2016). "Morten Tyldum Developing 'Headhunters' U.S. Remake With Yellow Bird". Deadline.
  10. ^ Headhunters Soundtrack (and confirmed with the soundtrack listing on the DVD)
  11. ^ a b "Headhunters heads for EFA". Norwegian Film Institute. 5 September 2012. Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  12. ^ Kjersti Nipen (29 December 2011). "Ja, vi elsker oppfølgere". Dagbladet. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  13. ^ "Headhunters (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  14. ^ "Headhunters". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (9 May 2012). "Headhunters". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 5 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
  16. ^ "Frenetisk forundringspakke", VG 25 August 2011
  17. ^ "Blodig moro", Dagbladet 24 August 2011
  18. ^ "Thriller i toppklasse", Aftenposten 24 August 2011
  19. ^ "Fiks og veldreid", Bergens Tidende 24 August 2011
  20. ^ "Høstens publikumsjeger", Bergensavisen 24 August 2011
  21. ^ "Intens thriller vipper nesten over", Stavanger Aftenblad 24 August 2011
  22. ^ "Kupper filmhøsten", Dagsavisen 24 August 2011
  23. ^ "Smart, effektiv og hyperspennende!", Fædrelandsvennen 25 August 2011
  24. ^ "Thriller med driv", Haugesunds Avis 24 August 2011
  25. ^ "Kraftpakke", Hamar Arbeiderblad 25 August 2011
  26. ^ "Best før blodbadet", Adresseavisen 24 August 2011
  27. ^ "Hals over hode", Klassekampen 24 August 2011
  28. ^ "Frekke tønner", Dagens Næringsliv 27 August 2011
  29. ^ a b "Hodejegerne nominert til BAFTA" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Film Institute. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  30. ^ NTB (18 August 2012). "Hodejegerne» vant publikumspris". Bergens Tidende. Retrieved 3 February 2013.

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