Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Short of It

Unless you’re a chess fanatic and know that the world champion is actually a 22-year-old Norwegian, the only other thing his country is famous for right now – apart from having the highest standard of living in the world - is a lunatic who mowed down a host of innocent children on an island outside Oslo and thinks he deserves a medal for it.

Actually, in other circles Norway is also famous for an artist called Edvard Munch and in yet another, more up-to-date fashion, a writer called Jo Nesbo.

The first thing you notice about him in the flesh is that he’s one of those slight kind of guys who's buffed himself up a bit. He isn't that short, as such, just slight-ish, self-effacing, quirky.

He was in Auckland to promote a film punted as Jo Nesbo's Headhunters (three cheers for writers getting a bit of acclaim!) and tried to give the leading man, Aksel Hennie, a wake-up call from all of us. The iPhone got through to an answering service and the entire auditorium wished Hennie a “good morning!” from the opposite end of the world.

Were there any questions before the movie started? Yes, what did he think of the adaptation of his book? Unlike Lionel Shriver and Paul Theroux he didn’t praise it like they did We Must Talk About Kevin and Mosquito Coast respectively. Instead he said it was like asking a gynaecologist whether he thought the women he’d just treated was sexy.

He also said he’d written the book in two months, told his publisher that it took a year and a half and that he didn’t think he’d plagiarised anyone.

Anyway, the first thing you notice about Hennie’s Roger Brown is that he’s short. In fact, he gives us his exact measurements. Then he shows us how much shorter he is than his partner, Diana (Synnov Macody Lund), one of those unbelievably tall, blonde, blue-eyed Nordic goddesses.

Roger’s got it all: the babe, the job, the hi-tech mansion, and the debt. Brown – there’s no reason given for this very Anglo name - might be a successful corporate headhunter by day, but somehow he’s got to afford that mansion so he does what the more complex collector/thief Ripley from the Patricia Highsmith novels does. He steals art, starting with a Munch etching by way of introduction.

One of the people he is talking to about a CEO position for a big multinational is an ex-military man (make your own deductions) who just so happens to own a Rubens worth about $100 million. Clas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is also nice and tall, like Diana, who wants the baby that Roger doesn’t want to talk about.

What follows is not only a very slick thriller, but also an action-laden meditation on modern relationships and being, well, vertically challenged. In fact, one farm-toilet scene says it's really shit to be short, literally. More comedy comes from Roger’s partner in crime, who’s in love with his Russian prostitute, and two identical fat cops - Tweedledum and Tweedledee no doubt.

So there you have it. The kind of thing Hollywood struggles with: clever entertainment.

Neil Sonnekus

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