“Headhunters” is the first screen adaptation of a book by Jo Nesbo, the Norwegian novelist best known for his crime series starring a loose-cannon detective. This relentless new film, which does not feature the detective Harry Hole, is ostensibly a stand-alone tale, unless you count the planned American remake. But its justifiably paranoid protagonist suffers enough punishing twists for two or three movies. Punishment is the key word, for this thriller from the director Morten Tyldum follows one contemporary genre trend by tying case-study psychology to what might be termed extreme fate. Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), a smug corporate headhunter, introduces himself in voice-over as all but a walking neurosis: a shorter-than-average, supposedly homely man who believes that he retains his statuesque wife only through luxurious upkeep. Where he oversteps the bounds of accepted yuppiedom is with his sideline in art theft. He scopes out clients for their paintings as well as for their prowess, working with a sleazy partner in crime named Ove. The lucrative, surprisingly easy hobby both encourages his outsize sense of entitlement and leads to his wide-eyed downfall. The agent of Brown’s destruction is a slick company prospect, Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, of “Game of Thrones”), who is a potential mark Brown meets at a party. Greve looks like someone who would end up having an affair with Brown’s wife. Greve proves to be a formidable and persistent foe, once Brown learns to suspect him and realizes that Greve’s unattended Rubens might be a ruse concealing nefarious motives. The exact cross-country chain of events and reversals, assuming they could even be plausibly explained, are best left unmapped. This nightmarish relentlessness and Brown’s viscerally visualized degradation make the typical Hitchcock hero look blessed. Car chases, unexpected gunfights and Space Age surveillance all have disastrous outcomes without stopping the story short. Death seems to be a lesser mortal threat to Brown, in his perpetual flight, than his own all-encompassing fear of Greve’s machinations, which entangle everyone closest to him. More is often better in a movie-length pursuit, if it’s all executed without excuses, and Mr. Tyldum’s blithe sense of narrative amnesia and absurdity is healthy and appropriate. But the endless pursuit begins to feel a little pointless and, even with a couple of false-bottom shocks, repetitive. As black comedy, the film is crude and downright sloppy when compared with the clockwork machinations of the Coen brothers’ creations, as it has been since its premiere. Brown’s panic is capably rendered, but his ordeals are not worth enduring to the bitter end. “Headhunters” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Bloody violence and nudity.