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Heads up for this dark tale

HEADHUNTERS Thriller. Starring Askel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Synnove Macody Lund, Elvind Sander, Julie Olgaard. Directed by Morten Tyldum. Cert 16

Scandinavia is certainly a hive of hot properties at the moment, especially for lovers of unusual thrillers. On TV we've had The Killing remade to reasonable effect by HBO, Iceland provided the source material for Contraband with a Hollywood remake of the bleak Jar City due soon, while it remains to be seen whether the box-office returns for David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo justify the producers pushing ahead with filming the remaining two books in Steig Larsson's trilogy.

The late Swedish writer's works have already been filmed in his native country and are as buttock-numbingly dull as the books themselves. So I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara to reprise their roles as Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander any time soon but, wait, here come the Norwegians to save the day.

Jo Nesbo has rather lazily been dubbed 'the new Steig Larsson' but is no such thing given that he can actually write and has a streak of black humour running through his material which is more akin to what you'd expect from Carl Hiassen or Elmore Leonard. And with Headhunters being the first of his novels to hit the screen we can expect more to follow.

Set in Oslo, the film draws you in within the opening two minutes, as corporate recruitment expert Roger Brown (Askel Hennie) explains how he suffers from small man syndrome, is living way beyond his means to help sustain an expensive house and free-spending wife (Synnove Macody Lund) and, by way of financing everything, has a sideline as an art thief.

In attempting to recruit the dashingly handsome Clas Grave (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) for one of his clients, he discovers that this former Dutch special forces soldier has a priceless Reubens sitting in his apartment and sets out to steal it.

Headhunters glides through its opening act like a straightforward thriller, and a very good one at that, but then changes tack completely as Roger finds himself in a whole world of danger which is completely alien to him.

It helps enormously that in Askel Hennie, director Morten Tyldum has a perfectly cast leading man, the actor conveying cunning and wild-eyed confusion in equal measure, like some genetic hybrid of Peter Lorre and Steve Buscemi -- extremely useful as the plot races through the kind of twists and turns which put one in mind of the Coen brothers at their very best. There are scenes here which are certainly not for the squeamish but, for the most part Headhunters is an ingenious and breathlessly paced thriller.

Mark Wahlberg has put serious time and effort into securing the remake rights but, believe me, you don't want to deprive yourself of what Headhunters has to offer for the next year or so. 4/5

TITANIC 3D Drama. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Billy Zane, Bernard Hill, Frances Fisher. Directed by James Cameron. Cert 12A

I hear that there's some anniversary looming regarding the world's most famous shipping accident and, to mark this low-key event, James Cameron has given his 1997 Oscar-snaffling box-office behemoth a coating of 3D fairy dust and sent it sailing back into the cinemas.

For the first hour or more the film's admittedly limited script sets up the story of the tragedy via the recollections of Rose, an old woman who survived the sinking, as in flashback we learn of her brief but passionate affair with penniless artist Jack. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio look unbelievably young and are ideal in their respective roles, even if Billy Zane just about stops short of twirling his moustache as her wealthy amoral fiance. It's when the ship strikes the iceberg though that Cameron comes into his own, orchestrating the increasing destruction and mayhem like the master craftsman he is.

It's here, too, that the 3D makeover works its magic, as waters rise and the Titanic breaks apart as it heads for a watery grave. Yes, the script is extremely simplistic and Cameron could have shaved a good hour from the running time, but Titanic still ticks all the boxes when it comes to an epic piece of mainstream entertainment.

4/5

LE HAVRE Drama. Starring Andre Wilms, Kati Outinen, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Blondin Miguel. Directed by Aki Kaurismaki. Cert 15A

Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki has never been shy when it comes to mixing up styles and genres and in his latest oddity he pays homage to classic French cinema with a story about an elderly shoeshine man (Andre Wilms) who befriends a young African refugee (Blondin Miguel) while trying to take care of an ailing wife (Kati Outinen).

There are several occasions when Kaurismaki's fondness for lobbing in curveballs can have you scratching your head but, once you ride the odd wave of weirdness, what emerges in Le Havre is a story of solidarity and survival.

3/5

ALSO RELEASED THIS WEEK...

The Cold Light of Day looks like a solid enough thriller but, alas, the distributors didn't bother showing the movie to the Irish media so draw your own conclusions.

Also, we were due to be graced with Eddie Murphy's latest effort A Thousand Words, but, given that it's languishing with a 0pc rating on Rotten Tomatoes, its distributors have decided not to bother even releasing it.


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