HANK’S RECOMMENDATIONS 9/18/12

HEADHUNTERS — The cover art makes the film look like just another cheap mystery thriller. In fact, the film inside offers many surprises, with offbeat characters and plot turns that you’ve never seen before.

The movie is adapted from a Jo Nesbo novel not available in translation. For those who don’t yet know who Jo Nesbo is, he’s the best-selling, compellingly efficient Norwegian thriller writer who’s inherited the mantle of Stieg Larsson, the late and legendary author of the “Millennium Trilogy” that includes THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.

In this adaptation that adds more than a dollop of wit to the bleak, menacing formula of Scandinavian thrillers, a successful CEO headhunter named Roger uses his interviews with well-heeled jobseekers to assess their personal assets and then burgle their art, replacing it with a forgery.

Roger’s personal life is a forgery as well. Though in love with his wife, on whom he lavishes money for her art galley, he is also a philanderer; though he lives for money, his pretentious lifestyle has drained him of it.

He finds his own chance for monetary redemption in the opportunity to steal a Rubens. The owner is a retired CEO whom Roger seduces into a job interview, and who turns out to be a more than competent adversary: a former special-forces veteran and military pentathlon winner whose expertise is tracking people with microfiber transmitters. He also has an “artful” relationship with Roger’s wife, and a dog he’s bringing in from the Netherlands who’s not simply a household pet.

This is a film in which everyone keeps secrets from everyone else, and where everyone’s sleek, self-satisfied veneer of competence is no bulwark against one thing going wrong after another.

Above all, it’s a sleeper of a thriller whose secret I’m sharing with you, dear viewer.

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL — This is a movie that needs no introduction as it has received pervasive promotion, excellent reviews and, indeed, many requests from you. For those reasons its arrival warrants mention. (I also promised my wife I’d mention it since she liked it so much.)

Directed by John Madden (ETHAN FROME; PRIME SUSPECT: THE LOST CHILD [with Helen Mirren]; several INSPECTOR MORSE episodes; HER MAJESTY, MRS. BROWN; SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE; CAPTAIN CORELLI’S MANDOLIN [with pre-action hero Nicolas Cage], PROOF; THE DEBT), Best Exotic Marigold Hotel sports an exemplary British cast: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Maggie Smith (lately of DOWNTON ABBEY fame), along with the excellent Indian actor Dev Patel, the naïve and struggling owner of the eponymous hotel.

Here (as if you already didn’t know) a disparate group of British seniors whose lives have run out in England find revivified opportunities as well as cultural challenges in India. The film is about not going so “gently into that good night,” and while, in the end, it does resolve itself far too easily, it is cleverly written, colorfully located and, as mentioned, boasts a cast to die for (so to speak).