Anthony Hopkins, middle, in Kidnapping Mr. Heineken. (Alchemy)
In the winter of 1983, a group of small time Dutch criminals successfully kidnapped millionaire beer magnate Freddy Heineken from his office in Amsterdam, holding him in a small hut on the outskirts of a distant business park. After nearly a month of terse back-and-forth between the kidnappers and the Heineken trust, a sum of nearly 35 million guilders were paid for the Mr. Heineken’s release. Now, this may have been a monumental event in the (thin) annals of Dutch criminal history, but don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of it—I certainly hadn’t. Historical or not, the kidnapping was deemed dramatic enough for a multinational film adaptation, so here we are.
Directed by Daniel Alfredson, the brother of noted Swedish director Tomas Alfredson (Let The Right One In), Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is a snappily-paced breeze of a watch, clocking in at merciful 95 minutes. After a brief cold open, we are quickly introduced to our leads: Cor van Hout (Jim Sturgess), a young petty crook with a baby on the way, Willem Hollendeer (Sam Worthington), a cocky brute with a penchant for violence, Jan Boellard (Ryan Kwanten), a sturdy operator, and Spikes Meijer (Mark van Eeuwen), a slimy creep. These low-rate crooks share one thing in common: a mutual need for cold, hard cash. Fed up with life at the bottom, they quickly devise their plan to kidnap Mr. Heineken (Anthony Hopkins), and, after a few weeks of careful planning and preparation, pull it off, taking the baron alongside his chauffeur Ab (David Dencik).
Following this blistering opening, the pace slows down a tad as captors and captive settle into their tense routine at the industrial hut. Though Cor puts on a display of toughness, the wily and ingenious Mr. Heineken sees his inner vulnerability and attempts to manipulate his captor into releasing them early. Meanwhile, cracks emerge in the bond between the criminals when Spikes starts getting jumpy and Willem’s unrestrained hostility puts their hostages in danger prematurely. Eventually, things go awry and the tables turn (as they always do), with the kidnappers now on the run from an intense police manhunt overseen by Freddy Heineken himself.
On the whole, the performances were solid, with the always affable Jim Sturgess making for a convincingly nervous and inexperienced hostage-taker. Ryan Kwanten puts in solid work, as does Mark Van Eeuwen, who delivers a rat-like take that rivals Jackie Earle Haley and Ben Mendelsohn. However, I have never thought Sam Worthington was a good actor, and his flat, one-note turn as Willem did nothing to challenge that notion. If he had any good sense, Mr. Worthington would get on his knees each morning and thank James Cameron for his merciful blessings, because without Avatar, this man would surely not have a career.
That one sour note aside, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken succeeds mostly because it aims low. We never really get deep insight into the psychology of the characters, nor are there any truly impressive action set pieces. But at the end of the day, this is a simple premise told simply, and there’s something to be said for that in this age of over-convoluted three-hour hot-air-balloon tentpoles.
Kidnapping Mr. Heineken
Releases on iTunes/VOD and in theaters March 6, 2015.
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