In 1982, five men kidnapped Alfred Heineken, the man who built Heineken into a commercial behemoth. Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is based on the book The Kidnapping of Alfred Heineken by Peter DeVries. It’s mostly a one-note thriller that could use a little humor and a little more depth.
The film begins with four old friends – Willem Holleeder (Sam Worthington), Cor Van Hout (Jim Sturgess), Jan Boellard (Ryan Kwanten) and Frans Meijer (Mark van Eeuwen) – applying for a loan to save their construction business, using a building they own as collateral. Unfortunately, the building is occupied by squatters and, by Dutch law, if they’ve changed the locks and taken up residence, they have rights – so when the four try to literally throw them out, not only are they arrested, but they have to pay for damages.
After they’re released from jail, the four decide they have to do something drastic before they’re completely broke. They decide that kidnapping Alfred Heineken (Anthony Hopkins) is the way to go and so they plan meticulously – funding their plan with a bank robbery that’s also well planned if shakily executed. They bring on another friend, Martin Erkamps (Thomas Cocquerel) to help, but he’s just as (un) memorable as the rest.
Although technically well executed, the movie doesn’t really ever spark – possibly because it’s of a single tone. It doesn’t matter if a scene is shot at night, or in the middle of the day – it all feels exactly the same. Moments of high drama are completely undifferentiated from moments where there should be humor – and those moments where there should be humor (or warmth) the film just doesn’t achieve that.
It doesn’t help that the film’s score is pretty uniform throughout, as well – a pulsing thing that never really sets any other mood than teeth-grating boredom.
The script, by William Brookfield, is surprisingly by the numbers – show how desperate these guys are; come up with a plan; fund the caper; execute the caper; take the money and run. Director Daniel Alfredson motors through the material at a slightly less than deliberate pace. Yawn.
The only times the film comes to life is when Heineken is onscreen. Hopkins brings some sizzle to his role – he’s a bright, intimidating force. Before you know it, he’s got the guys bringing him Bang Bang Chicken instead of ham sandwiches.
The film’s tag – It was the perfect crime until they got away with it – is ironic, but it’s hard to tell if that was deliberate. It’s also the wittiest thing about the movie.
There are worse fact-based films out there, but Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is no less unentertaining because it’s a true story.
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