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Magnolia’s on a Roll, from ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ and ‘Marley’ to Twisty Stylish Thriller ‘Headhunters’

Magnolia's on a Roll, from 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' and 'Marley' to Twisty Stylish Thriller 'Headhunters'

Magnolia Pictures is the new model indie distributor. They acquire a lot of movies and throw them into the marketplace–five are making their way to theaters around the country–some go early on VOD (music doc “Marley”), some eke out a living in theaters (sushi chef doc “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” has earned $2 million over three months). Some go theatrical first and then get branded (stylish Norwegian detective hit “Headhunters”).

“Headhunters” is a smart pick-up from Scandinavia’s “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” producers Yellow Bird and Nordisk as well as Norway’s Friland. It’s basically the most commercial movie Norway has to offer, based on Joe Nesbo’s global detective bestseller, starring rising star Aksel Hennie (“Max Manus”) and Danish “Game of Thrones” baddie Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and directed with style by top commercial director Morten Tyldum.

But while the thriller is good-looking, accessible and entertaining, it twists and turns and keeps its characters guessing. It’s not formulaic, and while there are face-offs, guns and mayhem, the film is driven by Hennie’s performance as flawed and insecure Roger, an executive headhunter who steals art to finance his unaffordable life style and gorgeous wife (journalist Synnove Macody Lund). When things go wrong, he doesn’t know who to trust.

Yet again, when in doubt I find myself seeking solace from slim American pickings by going foreign. On to the embarrassment of riches at Cannes!

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Just saw this smart, twisty mystery and found it great fun, despite the improbable toll of disaster and physical punishment that Hennie, somehow, survives. He is no hero — devious, unfaithful, criminally dishonest — and gets his comeuppance via a "headhunt" gone awry. Yet, as Hennie is surprised, undermined, and continually humiliated, we begin to care. We will his survival. Not Hitchcock, but satisfying in that old-fashioned, cat-and-mouse, plot-bending way.

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