×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Kidnapping Mr. Heineken’

Anthony Hopkins and a cast of erstwhile next-big-things go slumming in Daniel Alfredson's listless, fact-based kidnapping caper.

With:
Jim Sturgess, Sam Worthington, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony Hopkins, Mark Van Eeuwen, Thomas Cocquerel, Jemima West, David Dencik. (English, German dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2917388/

About as appealing as day-old beer littered with cigarette butts, the abysmal caper drama “Kidnapping Mr. Heineken” is one of those international co-productions produced for all the right tax-credit reasons and none of the right artistic ones — the sort of movie one tends to find advertised in the back pages of a Cannes market guide, but hopes never to actually see. And yet, here it is: a slapped-together, wholly unconvincing account of the botched 1983 abduction of beer magnate Alfred “Freddy” Heineken, made from an incoherent script, with a cast of Anglo and Australian pretty boys not even trying to seem remotely Dutch, and one Oscar-winning star scraping career bottom. A most inauspicious English-language filmmaking debut for Daniel (brother of Tomas) Alfredson, “Kidnapping” will hold a handful of cinemas hostage beginning this weekend en route to the VOD slag heap.

The Heineken kidnapping was a major news story of its day in the Netherlands, where it set a record for the country’s largest-ever ransom payout (35 million Dutch guilders, or about $20 million). More recently, the case’s cultural currency was renewed by the publication of an exhaustively researched book by noted crime journalist Peter R. de Vries (best known in the U.S. for his coverage of the Natalee Holloway case), credited as the official source material here. But to an international audience, the whole Heineken affair may seem as trivial as the kidnapping of the Miami deli magnate dramatized in Michael Bay’s “Pain and Gain” must have seemed when that movie traveled overseas. Like Bay’s film, Alfredson’s is something of a class-revolt fantasy, positioning Heineken’s novice abductors — five lifelong friends partnered in a failing construction company — as working-class Robin Hoods hankering for a bigger piece of the pie during the Dutch recession of the early ‘80s.

That’s about as much motivation as Alfredson and screenwriter William Brookfield feel obliged to provide in a movie that constantly leaves you scratching your head as to how such dim-bulb lowlifes could ever manage to pull off so bold a heist. (The characters in “Pain and Gain” were numbskulls too, but their victim was considerably lower-hanging fruit.) Perhaps because they thought it would bore the audience, the filmmakers gloss over most of the procedural details a Michael Mann or a David Fincher would have fetishized — including the building of the sound-proof cells where Heineken and his chauffeur will be held — so that no sooner do our lads have their big idea than they’re in the midst of executing it.

Popular on Variety

Because the kidnappers themselves have been given interchangeably dull personalities, there’s no one to really root for here; it’s hard enough just keeping track of who’s who. Helpful hints: Cor (Jim Sturgess) is the one with the bad blond dye job and pregnant wife (a wasted Jemima West); Willem (Sam Worthington) is Cor’s surly brother-in-law and co-ringleader; and Jan (Ryan Kwanten) is the obligatory sensitive type who begins to have second thought about getting his hands dirty.

“Kidnapping Mr. Heineken” badly needs some sort of spark, but Anthony Hopkins’ Heineken turns out to be just another wet match. The actor, who’s done some of his career-best work in small padded cells, looks bedraggled and bedheaded here even before he’s been snatched, and, once he has been, delivers nearly all his lines in the same barely audible hiss (most of it potted wisdom about the relative value of friends and money). Possibly, this was someone’s idea of showing us that Heineken could stay cool and cagey under pressure, but Hopkins plays it so cool he’s nearly comatose, and altogether lacking in the blue-blooded, patrician authority the role calls for (and which Rutger Hauer supplied in spades when he played the part in the superior 2011 Dutch feature “The Heineken Kidnapping”). Make no mistake: Hopkins’ onscreen captors aren’t the only ones who are just in this for the money.

Alfredson, who did a sleek, competent job at the helm of the second two entries in the Swedish-made “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy, seems completely lost here, whether aiming for comedy (think “The Full Monty” with handcuffs and chains) or straightforward thrills. Even the presence of two prominently credited “additional” editors (often a sign of post-production turmoil) has failed to make any sense of the movie’s fitful action sequences — mostly of the car-chase variety — in which smash zooms and shaky-cam inserts are quick-cut past the brink of comprehension.

Film Review: 'Kidnapping Mr. Heineken'

Reviewed online, New York, March 2, 2015. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 94 MIN.

Production: (Belgium-U.K.-Netherlands) An Alchemy (in U.S.) release of an Informant Media presentation in association with Global Film Partners and Embankment Films of an Informant Europe production in association with European Film Company and Umedia. Produced by Michael A. Simpson, Howard Meltzer, Judy Cairo. Executive producers, Eric Brenner, Grant Guthrie, Sandra Siegal, Paul B. Lloyd Jr., Sam Solakyan, Darrel Casalino, Tim Haslam, Hugo Grumbar, Adrian Politowski, Gilles Waterkeyn, Rob van den Berg. Co-producer, Guirec van Slingelandt, Mark van Eeuwen, Daniel Koefoed, John Papsidera.

Crew: Directed by Daniel Alfredson. Screenplay, William Brookfield, based on the book “The Kidnapping of Alfred Heineken” by Peter R. de Vries. Camera (color, widescreen), Fredrik Backar; editor, Hakan Karlsson; music, Lucas Vidal; music supervisor, Andy Ross; production designers, Hubert Pouille, Chris Stull; art director, Jan Rutgers; set decorator, Ilse Willocx; costume designer, Catherine van Bree; sound, Dirk Bombey; sound designers, Herman Pieete, Francois Dumont; supervising sound editor, Trip Brock; re-recording mixers, Alek Gosssa, Mark Rozett; visual effects supervisor, Bert Deruyck; visual effects producer, Nora Berecoechea; visual effects, Umedia, Alchemy 24; stunt coordinator, Willem de Beukelaer; line producers, Carole Sanders Peterman, Berry van Zwieten; assistant director, Marc van der Bijl; casting, John Papsidera.

With: Jim Sturgess, Sam Worthington, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony Hopkins, Mark Van Eeuwen, Thomas Cocquerel, Jemima West, David Dencik. (English, German dialogue)

More Film

  • Macao Project Market Participants

    ‘Dear Wormwood’ Claims Macao Project Market Prize

    Philippines director Dodo Dayao’s supernatural horror project “Dear Wormwood” claimed the top prize on Sunday at the IFFAM Project Market, part of the ongoing International Film Festival & Awards Macao. “Wormwood” is a tale of five women living together in a remote house in the forest, where a mystery illness strikes one of the quintet, [...]

  • International Film Festival and Awards Macao

    Macao Industry Debate: Streaming Not Done Reshaping Indie Film Business

    New viewing habits brought on by the rise of streaming have hastened the demise of the mid-budget American indie, changed the very definition of arthouse cinema, and shaken the indie distribution business. But theatrical is still here to stay, attendees of the Macao International Film Festival’s closed-door industry panels concluded Saturday. Panelists gathered to discuss [...]

  • Arab and African Filmmakers Are Increasingly

    Arab and African Filmmakers Are Increasingly Focusing on Genre Films and Series

    2019 has been an excellent year for films from Africa and the Middle East, with a higher presence in A-list festivals, and kudos for films such as Mati Diop’s “Atlantics,” which won the Grand Prix at Cannes. The “new wave” of Arab and African cinema includes a small group of films that explore links with [...]

  • Producer Said Hamich on 'Zanka Contact,'

    Producer Said Hamich on Atlas Workshop Winner 'Zanka Contact,' Upcoming Projects

    Two projects from Franco-Moroccan producer Saïd Hamich won big at the Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshop this year, with the upcoming Kamal Lazraq-directed feature “Les Meutes” nabbing a development prize and the recently wrapped “Zanka Contact” winning an $11,000 post-production grant. “Zanka Contact” director Ismaël El Iraki was on-hand to present 10 minutes of footage, [...]

  • Major Film Festivals Are Becoming Key

    Major Film Festivals Are Becoming Key in Promoting Films From the Arab World, Africa

    Looking back at the lineups of key festivals such as Cannes and Venice this year, 2019 stands out as a banner year for movies from the African continent and the Arab world. During a panel hosted at the Netflix-sponsored industry event Atlas Workshops during the Marrakech Film Festival, Rémi Bonhomme, who works at Cannes’ Critics’ [...]

  • Robert RedfordRobert Redford tribute, 18th Marrakech

    Robert Redford Talks About Potential Next Film, U.S. Politics, Life Philosophy

    During a 90-minute onstage conversation at the Marrakech Film Festival, where he received an honorary tribute, Robert Redford spoke about his life-long quest for truth and freedom, and his political engagement through films, as well as a long-gestating project he’s considering producing, despite having announced his retirement. When he has spoken about the project, “109 [...]

  • For Sama SXSW Cannes Documentary

    'For Sama' Wins Best Feature at International Documentary Association Awards

    Syrian Civil War diary “For Sama” has won the best feature award from the International Documentary Association for Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts. The award was presented by Frances Fisher on Saturday night at the 35th Annual IDA Documentary Awards at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The first-time award for Best Director went to Steven Bognar and Julia [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content