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Headhunters & Chernobyl

Submitted by MBergeron on May 25, 2012 – 2:35 pmNo Comment
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The Chernobyl Diaries should get a medal for truth in advertising. It’s exactly what you think it would be from the premise of a group of twentysomethings going on an extreme tourism excursion to the Russian city of Pripyat.

TCD doesn’t waste a lot of time with elements like character when it can just get right down to atmosphere and spooky, scary imagery. It’s less Blair Witch and more Paranormal Radioactivity, although bits and pieces of several genre items that’ve come before pop up throughout. To its credit TCD offers bleak and sticks with that desolate landscape.

Pripyat is the worker’s city next to Chernobyl and was evacuated immediately after what is considered one of the two worst nuclear disasters in history in 1986 (the other being the 2011 Fukushima event). Natch, the young ones get stuck in Pripyat after their guide, aptly named Uri, disappears. Wild animals, mutated fish, suspense and other things lurking in the dark commence. While the film obviously wasn’t shot anywhere near Chernobyl there is clever use of footage from that location.

Headhunters has to be hands down the go-to crime caper of the season. This Norwegian (Hodejegerne) film from 2011 has the potential to be one of the year’s top grossing foreign films. It’s domestic template is not unlike the cool Gallic actioner Tell No One, a brilliant crime drama from 2006 that became a sensation when it was released in America in 2008. (If a foreign film grosses more than $5-million domestically that’s a huge windfall.)

Headhunters starts out as a sophisticated art theft story and unfolds on the level of the original Thomas Crown Affair. But Headhunters has a souped-up performance engine and will switch gears rapidly and frequently. The main distinction of Headhunters is how it plays the opposite of say the more violent and visceral Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (original Swedish version), while still occasionally veering into a more exploitive lane filled with car crashes, automatic weapons, and even excrement. A scene involving the latter noun is an instant classic. Another sequence involving a lethal attack dog that segues into a car chase between a vehicle and a farm tractor veers from savage to comical imagery at the blink of an eye.

Askel Hennie leads the cast as the elusive and suave thief who’s about to be double crossed in more ways than one. One instantly wants to see more of Hennie and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he became the next foreign villain du jour much like Mads Mikkelsen is now. Headhunters’ director Morton Tyldum has a firm grasp on genre, confounding character expectations and scoring an action film.

- Michael Bergeron

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