Thursday, April 26, 2012
A cocky Norwegian headhunter with a Napoleon complex (“It doesn’t take a PhD to see I’m overcompensating for my height,” he informs us early on) gets caught up in a web of industrial espionage, mistaken identities and murder in this well-paced thriller.
Aksel Hennie, looking like a cross between Steve Buscemi and a young David McCallum, is quirkily charismatic as our flawed hero, Roger Brown, who likes to lecture his clients on how to succeed in business by pretending you’re not really trying. Even his illegal sideline—stealing and selling famous works of art and replacing them with copies so good the owners never know they’ve been ripped off—is all about playing off people’s tendency to focus more on appearance than reality.
The irony is that Roger underestimates his own wife, Diana (the dignified Synnøve Macody Lund), a willowy blond beauty who turns out to have a lot more on her mind that he gives her credit for, even as he builds his whole life around trying to please her. (Stealing art is his way of making sure he has enough money to shower Diana with expensive baubles and toys.)
Roger may think he’s a criminal mastermind, but when his comically inept sidekick, Ove (Eivind Sander) shows up dead in his garage, his thievery starts to look pretty bush-league. Afraid of being linked to Ove and, by extension, the canvases he helped steal, Roger covers up the crime, discovering in the process that the killer is really out to get him. So he’s on the run, forced into doing some killing of his own while scrambling to figure out who’s coming after him and why.
The upper hand keeps shifting as Roger stays a half-step ahead of his seemingly omniscient pursuer (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Game of Thrones’ equally psychopathic Jaime Lannister), leaving a string of darkly absurd killings in his wake. In one, Brugd (Joachim Rafaelsen, funny because he plays it so straight), a banty rooster of an overconfident country cop, dies holding out his palm to the truck barreling toward him down a mountain road, unable to comprehend that it might have no intention of stopping. And that’s just one of several crisply drawn little character studies that stud this highly satisfying Hitchcockian thriller, thanks to a wide streak of aquavit-dry Scandinavian wit.
Written for The L Magazine