Headhunters is cult movie material. Jo Nesbo’s novel has been transformed into film in his native Norway, but bears none of the usual traits of the stoic, Scandinavian thrillers we have grown fond of. Because this is no standard thriller – Scandinavian or otherwise.

You must go to Morten Tyldum’s Headhunters a blank canvas. No summary or synopsis is needed. Nesbo’s story is nothing you will have dreamed up or experienced before, and neither are its meanderings that keep popping up whenever you think the plot could not shock you any further: an American Bulldog impaled on a tractor, the protagonist submerging himself into a trench of shit and later shaving his head with a pair of nail scissors and a disposable razor.

Steve Buscemi lookalike Aksel Hennie gives a huge and unrelenting performance said protagonist, the pint-sized Roger Brown.  The Killing’s Julie R Olgaard – who played the beautiful Nanne Birk Larsen – also features. Not to mention the sexy Viking Nicolaj Coster-Waldau who graces the posters.

Headhunters morphs from light to serious, from macabre to touching and back again – moments for laughter and moments for vomiting –over the course of two hours without becoming either farce or spoof.

Why this movie isn’t in the mainstream is unfathomable. The fact that it is in Norwegian – with subtitles, obviously – or has no scruples may have deterred distributors. Regardless, this Nordic wonder will be one of the most memorable features of 2012.