A Lot of Fun

Don't be surprised if Norway's thriller 'Headhunters' soon gets an American remake

Over the past few years, several Swedish films have been exported to the United States, only to find themselves remade by American studios.

Let the Right One In became Let Me In, which had a couple of minor changes that fit well, while The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo became a mostly uninspired, if polished, knockoff. It's not just a sudden IKEA-based euphoria that has caused these Swedish films to be remade, and it isn't even because they're good stories. They were remade because they're good stories and nobody saw the originals.

Combined, those two Swedish movies made $12 million in the U.S., which equals about 1.5 million tickets sold. Fans of the originals did everything short of a Westboro Baptist Church-style protest to show their disgust when word spread about the almost-immediate American updates. But the studios didn't remake those movies for the people who saw the originals; they made them for the whopping majority of people who did not.

Should Hollywood cast an eye to neighboring Norway, Headhunters would be a pretty solid American remake. It has a universal premise, with classic American crime-movie double-crossing, and the protagonist is named Roger Brown, which doesn't sound particularly Norwegian.

Roger (Aksel Hennie) tells us right up front how it works: 1.) Know the room. 2.) Don't drag it out. 3.) Don't leave DNA. 4.) Don't stress over the replacement. 5.) You'll probably get caught one day. That's his how-to guide for stealing priceless works of art from private collections, and so far, so good. Roger is very cautious, never overstays his welcome, and always finds a cheap copy instead of an expensive reproduction, because it'll be weeks before anyone notices the swap.

He's in the heist business because, otherwise, he couldn't afford the baubles he thinks he needs to keep his wife (Synnøve Macody Lund). As luck would have it, she runs an art gallery catering to exactly the kind of clientele Roger targets, including Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). He has a masterpiece long thought to have gone missing during World War II; for Roger, this is the "one last job" carrot dangled on the end of a very short stick.

In a movie where everyone's keeping a secret from somebody else, Clas may have the best secret. In short, he's not the kind of guy from whom you want to steal art. He's kind of the Predator. Roger can't figure out how to get away, no matter what death-defying feats he accomplishes; Clas always manages to pop back up, be it with a pit bull or a runaway 18-wheeler.

Roger is not the strong, adventurous type. He's a pasty, 5-foot-6 corporate headhunter by day. Despite that, he shows an almost Bruce Willis-like imperviousness when he becomes the hunted. And since at one point, Rogers shaves his head to help avoid capture, who better for our hypothetical American remake than Willis?

Headhunters is a hell of a lot of fun. That's what heist movies should be. Their nature is preposterous, but as long as they look cool and sound cool, it's hard to go royally wrong.

Headhunters gets a little dark, a little sinister, and a little violent, but that's OK. If there's too much blood, that's because its veins course with American blood. This is a film crying out to be seen by an appreciative American audience. And short of that, maybe one day, this can be remade as an American popcorn movie for the moviegoer who hates to read subtitles.

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