Headhunters

Headhunters

Run time 100 minutes.
Not for children.

Aksel Hennie in “Headhunters.”

Jo Nesbø is a Norwegian writer of thrillers, most of which feature his protagonist, Harry Hole. This was his first book, written in 2008, in which Hole does not appear.

Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie, one of Norway’s most popular actors) tells us right at the outset that he is short, 5-6, and must overcompensate. He has a gorgeous live-in girlfriend, Diana Brown (Synnøve Macody Lund, a journalist and former model who makes her acting debut). Although he works as a headhunter, he supplements his income by stealing art, with his partner, Ove Kikerud (Eivind Sander). Diana brings him a person searching for a specific job, Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, one of Denmark’s most successful international actors). When Roger learns that Greve has inherited a painting that is potentially worth $100 million, he plots with Ove to steal it.

Alas, things go from bad to worse for poor Roger. At times things get so bad that this almost appears like a horror film, although that’s not what it is. Regardless, the acting is superb. Directed by Morten Tyldum, from a script by Ulf Ryberg and Lars Gudmestad, this is a first-class thriller with tension-enhancing music (Trond Bjerknæs and Jeppe Kaas), and Hitchcockian-quality cinematography (John Andreas Andersen).

Like all good thrillers, after the setup that takes place in the first 15 minutes the tension constantly increases. While Roger is a “headhunter,” in that his main occupation is finding people for jobs, the title attains a double meaning as the movie progresses.

Last year the best film I saw was the French thriller, Point Blank. This is another film in that mold. Many avoid foreign films because they don’t like to read subtitles. These films are so good you soon don’t even register that you’re reading the dialogue. This film, especially, is so visual that for most of it the subtitles are relatively irrelevant. In Norwegian & Danish.

Darling Companion

Runtime 103 minutes.
OK for children.

From l, Diane Keaton and Elisabeth Moss in “Darling Companion.”

This is ostensibly a comedy, albeit one with few laughs. The genesis was when writers Meg & Lawrence Kasdan adopted a dog from a shelter in Los Angeles. From that, the inventive Lawrence, who directed, developed this story about relationships, centered around a missing, but loved, dog.

Beth (Diane Keaton) and Joseph Winter (Kevin Kline), a surgeon, comprise a longtime married couple whose marriage is shaky. He’s in surgery most of the time while their last daughter, Grace (Elisabeth Moss) is still at home with no boyfriend, and Beth is feeling forlorn. On a drive with Grace, Beth spots an abandoned dog and rescues it. They take it to a vet, Sam (Jay Ali), and sparks fly between him and Grace. Joseph reluctantly agrees to adopt the dog, which they name Freeway.

A year later Grace and Sam marry at the family’s cabin in the mountains. After the newlyweds leave, Beth and Joseph and Joseph’s sister, Penny (Dianne Wiest), and her boyfriend, Russell (Richard Jenkins), remain along with Penny’s son, Bryan (Mark Duplass), also a surgeon, and the cabin’s caretaker Carmen (Ayelet Zurer), a beautiful, mysterious psychic.

When the dog gets lost chasing a deer, Grace insists on trying to find him and induces Joseph to forget about his waiting patients and stay in the remote location in what appears to be a quixotic quest to find the dog. While the movie’s credibility is severely shaken by something as unrealistic as this, it is exacerbated by Keaton’s annoying acting. There’s a scene in which Joseph is instructing her on how to make a painful treatment on him that is so irritating it would have driven me out of the theater if I hadn’t had to stay. I think the last time I saw Keaton when she didn’t annoy the heck out of me was in The Godfather, Parts II & III (1974 & 1990, respectively). She gave outstanding performances in both. Except for her performance in The Godfather, Part III, once she adopted her irritating persona and mannerisms in Annie Hall (1977) she has been virtually unwatchable for me.

This is not a dog movie in the mold of Marley and Me (2008), which was almost entirely about a dog. This is about people. In fact, for almost half the movie, the dog is lost and off screen.

The best parts of the film could have been the scenery, as it was shot in photogenic parts of Utah, but Director of Photography Michael McDonough doesn’t take full advantage out of what could have been colorful, mind-blowing visuals. What remained as the best part for me was the performance of Zurer, who is captivating in her short times onscreen.

Although well-intended, this is mostly a monumental bore.

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