'Kidnapping Mr. Heineken': Film Review

This potentially gripping story falls flat

Daniel Alfredson's thriller recounts the true story of the infamous 1983 kidnapping of the Dutch brewery tycoon

Fascinating true-life crime tales are rarely rendered in less gripping cinematic terms than in Kidnapping Mr. Heineken, about the 1983 abduction of the Dutch brewery tycoon that resulted in a ransom payment of 35 million…Dutch guilders, that is. Although featuring a sterling cast headed by Anthony Hopkins in the titular role, this thriller directed by Daniel Alfredsen, who previously helmed the second and third chapters in the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, follows endlessly predictable beats in its plodding depiction of the caper.

William Brookfield's screenplay dutifully introduces to the perpetrators, headed by family man Cor (Jim Sturgess) and his brother-in-law Willem (Sam Worthington) and also including the nicknamed "Cat" (Ryan Kwanten), "Spikes" (Mark van Eeuwen) and youngest member "Brakes" (Thomas Cocquerel).

Several of the conspirators were partners in a failed construction business. Unable to get a bank loan and with their sole remaining property inhabited by squatters who they try to violently evict only to run afoul of the law, they decide to follow Cor's idea of kidnapping the wealthy Heineken, who seems to have no protection other than his loyal chauffeur (David Dencik).

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First robbing a bank to procure the funds necessary to put their plan in effect, they succeed in snatching Heineken and his driver in a well-orchestrated crime designed to fool the police into thinking that they're members of an organized group on the order of Baader-Meinhof. It's only after they get their victims safely ensconced in a sound-proof hideaway that things start to go wrong.

Despite their delight as being described as "experienced and dangerous criminals," the men quickly reveal their inexperience via such blunders as accidentally leaving their ransom note in a copy machine.  As the negotiations drag on for weeks rather than the expected few days, they start exhibiting internal tensions, a process considerably aided by the wily Heineken's amusedly playing mind games with his captors.

Hopkins, channeling a bit of his Hannibal Lector-style flair, brings some much needed energy to the proceedings with his entertaining portrayal of the defiant kidnap victim who soon begins making demands for such amenities as classical music piped into his room and regular deliveries of Chinese food.

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The longer things go on, the more they start to unravel, but the situations are depicted so diffusely that the tension dissipates rather than builds, with the actors failing to invest us in their blandly drawn characters' fates. It all leads up to an anti-climactic finale, followed by the usual descriptions of what eventually happened to the real-life figures involved.

Director Alfredson stages the action and chase sequences reasonably effectively, with the Amsterdam locations providing suitably exotic atmosphere. But by the time the relatively brief but seemingly interminable proceedings reach their conclusion, viewers may feel like they've been held hostage themselves.

Production: Informant Europe
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jim Sturgess, Sam Worthington, Ryan Kwanten, Mark van Eeuwen, Thomas Cocquerel, Jemima West, David Dencik
Director: Daniel Alfredson
Screenwriter: William Brookfield
Producers: Michael A. Simpson, Howard Meltzer, Judy Cair
Executive producers: Eric Brenner, Grant Guthrie, Sandra Siegal, Paul B. Loyd, Jr. Sam Solakyan, Darrel Casalino, Tim Haslam, Hugo Grumbar, Adrian Politowski, Gilles Waterkeyn
Director of photography: Fredrik Backar
Production designers: Hubert Pouille, Chris Stull
Editor: Hakan Karlsson
Costume designer: Catherine Van Bree
Composer: Lucas Vidal
Casting: John Papsidera

Rated R, 95 min.