Review: Kidnapping Mr. Heineken
PLOT: Based on true events, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken tells the tale of five friends who kidnap millionaire beer magnate Freddy Heineken and hold him for ransom for weeks .
REVIEW: KIDNAPPING MR. HEINEKEN is a fairly by-the-numbers kidnapping movie based on actual events, and one can't help but think a thorough documentary on the subject would be much more fascinating. Or maybe not, since these events in and of themselves just aren't all that interesting - at least, from an outsider's perspective. I'm sure these events were indeed compelling for all those involved, but it's still not enough to make a significantly gripping drama. Sometimes truth isn't stranger than fiction; it can be just as ho-hum.
Directed by Daniel Alfredson and based on Peter de Vries' bestselling book, the tale revolves around a group of blue collar friends in early 80s Amsterdam, all of whom are nearing the ends of their rope. A business venture has just failed, leaving them hard up for money, and with no tremendous prospects in sight, they'll do almost anything to become financially secure. Cor Van Hout (Jim Sturgess) has just learned his wife is pregnant, which is often how desperate schemes for cash are kickstarted, and one night he abruptly springs his idea upon his pals, one he's apparently been toying with for years: they'll kidnap local beer magnate Freddy Heineken (Anthony Hopkins) and hold him for ransom. His friends don't seem too troubled by the notion, and quickly they're all in on the caper, which also wildly includes robbing a bank first to fund their more elaborate scheme.
This crew is a typically ragtag bunch, none of them particularly memorable, save for maybe Cor's intense brother-in-law (Sam Worthington), who holds a special grudge against Heineken. Surprisingly, they're innovate enough to get the job done, snatching Freddy and his driver off the street one night and locking them in a secret room in a shed out in the middle of nowhere. Now it's time to play the waiting game, as the boys make their demands known and wait for the police to respond accordingly. Naturally, no plan like this ever goes very smoothly, and the kidnappers are disappointed to find no one is jumping at their orders. Days turn into weeks as they desperately attempt to keep their hostages stable and their own lives intact.
From the start, KIDNAPPING MR. HEINEKEN presents itself as a very predictable thriller, and there's nothing very thrilling about what transpires here. Even if you didn't know the outcome of this venture (which can of course be googled or researched in no time), Alfredson's movie lacks sufficient tension to keep us invested. None of the protagonists distinguish themselves, and though we may sympathize with their dire straits in the early going, we don't really care if they succeed with their plan, which is mostly violence-free. (On the other side of the coin, none of them are bad enough to make us actively despise them. They're just sort of "there.") Based on fact as it may be, things play out like the most basic of TV crime procedurals, with the thieves turning on one another as the pressure mounts and their once-close bond inevitably breaking down.
The one true highlight is Hopkins, portraying a frazzled old man who tries to keep things together even as untold weeks go by without him leaving his tiny cell. You might be led to believe that Freddy plays a role in the undoing of his captors plans, using mind games to unravel the crew, but "Kidnapping Hannibal Lecter" this is not. Instead, Freddy is merely a frightened victim putting on a brave face, and Hopkins sinks his teeth into the role with his reliable vigor. One moment in particular, which I won't spoil here, is a master class in acting, as Hopkins' face relays several different strong emotions in a matter of minutes. The passion he brings to his character makes one wish he were more of a major player in the film, but alas Freddy Heineken is but a small supporting presence in his own drama.