ROGER BROWN'S EXCUSE for being an asshole is that he's short. He admits as much to the audience, in the opening voiceover of the very good Norwegian thriller Headhunters. To compensate for his height, Roger (Aksel Hennie) surrounds himself with lavish trappings: a gorgeous wife who towers over him (Synnøve Macody Lund), a sleek, expensive home he can't afford, a secret lover on the side, and a pillowy hairdo that makes him look particularly James Spader-ish (in other words, totally skeezy). Roger poses as an executive recruiter—a headhunter, as they're more often called—but he makes the bulk of his money as an art thief. Even so, Roger is tumbling into debt.
Headhunters is centered around Roger's latest and biggest heist—lifting a priceless Rubens that disappeared during World War II and now is in the hands of Dutch tech CEO Clas Greve (Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Of course, things go perilously awry. Greve is more than he seems, which is usually the case when a role is played by Jaime Lannister; he's actually an ex-mercenary soldier who acquired assassin-level skills in some of the toughest parts of the globe. He also has an eye on Roger's statuesque wife, and soon Roger finds himself in a string of terrible situations: in the jaws of a ferocious dog; careening off a cliff in a police car; completely submerged in human feces.
The action is consistently deft and darkly humorous throughout, bringing to mind the Coen brothers at their leanest, darkest, and Blood Simple-est. What's more, it's fun to watch sleazebaggy Roger fall into these awful predicaments. Headhunters does a fine job of allowing Roger to redeem himself, too—but thankfully, the film doesn't bother with any kind of morality, instead keeping things as light and nimble as a blood-soaked, shit-smeared thriller can be.