Movie review: Kidnapping Freddy Heineken is bland as stale beer

Review Crime drama


95 minutes/Opens tomorrow/**

The story: Amsterdam, 1983. Freddy Heineken (Anthony Hopkins), billionaire head of the Dutch beer company, Heineken, is kidnapped, along with his driver, and held for a ransom of 35 million Dutch guilders. But as the days drag on and the pressure builds, the unity of the five kidnappers begins to disintegrate.

Like week-old warm beer, this crime caper-drama based on an actual 1983 incident tastes too bland.

It hopes you would be dazzled by the audacity of the kidnapping of Heineken, but it is let down by the drudgery of the proceedings.

Make no mistake though - Hopkins in captivity is always fascinating.

He is not Hannibal Lecter-dangerous here, but as a stubborn captive in chains, he is still a defanged alpha male worth watching.

If only we were allowed to see more of him.

Maybe the film is too faithful to its source material - a 1987 book researched by Dutch investigative reporter Peter R. De Vries, who co-wrote the script.

Maybe Europe-based stories like this just do not go for the pumped-up action and hyped-up drama of Hollywood thrillers.

About the only instances of excitement here are a high-speed chase involving police cars and a speedboat, and a nervy occasion when the ransom note is left absentmindedly on a photocopying machine.

The setting is the grimy recession-hit Amsterdam of the 1980s, where the felons are depicted as a bunch of luckless childhood friends who cannot get a bank loan for their failing construction business.

They are led by Cor Van Hout (Jim Sturgess) and his more ruthless brother-in-law, Willem Holleeder (Sam Worthington), with True Blood's Ryan Kwanten as the obligatory hanger-on whose feet get colder and colder.

There is a great early sequence showing the chaps trying to evict squatters rowdily from their property which looks just like a scene straight out of a British film about angry young yobs.

People, you see, speak with pronounced English and Australian accents here, which makes you think that Heineken is actually a British beer and that this could have been a dockside story about the origin of The Beatles.

By contrast, Dutch actor Rutger Hauer played the beer baron in a 2011 version - The Heineken Kidnapping - which did not have such authencity issues since it was filmed in Dutch.

Now, you may be persuaded to look beyond this linguistic handicap if everybody in this unholy caper was rendered more interestingly.

There is not much you have not seen before here, except possibly the sight of these chaps hauling away huge bags of cash right in the open as if each one is the Santa Claus Of Crime.

Here you would think that Hopkins would be unleashed more as he manipulates and tries to exert control with the authority of a wounded but proud caged lion.

"You have my word of honour you will get your blood money," he promises imperiously as though this is simply a class revolt by the unwashed masses.

Alas, Hopkins might have been paid only 10 crates of Heineken beer for this role which somewhat restricts his screen time.

A pity.

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