March 10, 2015
"Kidnapping Freddie Heineken" is just as its title tells us. It is about how a group of five down-and-out young men who pulled off the kidnapping of a noted beer magnate Alfred "Freddy" Heineken in 1983. They were able to demand 35M Dutch guilders (about 16M Euros), the biggest ransom ever paid for a kidnap victim. Will their sudden windfall help them with their most cherished dreams?
This British-Dutch production gathered Hollywood stars to portray the characters in this crime drama. For the kidnappers, they have gathered a group of twenty-something actors who had previously top-billed a number of films on their own already. For the victim, the producers went all out and got a revered senior Oscar-winning actor to play him.
Jim Sturgess is an actor who deserves to break into the big time. He is a chameleon able to disappear into any role he plays. Since his big break in "Across the Universe" in 2007, he has been consistently turning in remarkable performances in films like "21", "Upside Down" and "Cloud Atlas". In this film, he plays the charismatic Cor van Hout, the mastermind behind the Heineken kidnapping. He was able to show more acting depth than the rest of the younger cast, especially since he was also given a pregnant girlfriend to worry about.
Sam Worthington is an Australian actor who came on strong in 2009 to 2010 with the lead roles in major productions like "Avatar" and "Clash of the Titans". His career never really progressed too much in subsequent films after his auspicious Hollywood debut. His star power always felt secondary to the special effects of his big films. In this smaller, quieter, character-driven film, Worthington's screen presence as Willem Holleeder is obviously weaker than those of his co-stars Sturgess and Kwanten.
Ryan Kwanten is another Australian actor. He broke into mainstream consciousness as a regular cast member of the HBO vampire-themed TV series "True Blood" which ran for seven seasons before concluding last year. Kwanten also registers strong on the big screen with punkish charm as Cat Boellaard, who owned the boat house where they hid Heineken.
Those scenes where Sir Anthony Hopkins would be talking to the kidnappers individually were the best of all. The tension in those scenes were so thick with Hopkins chewing into their conscience with his masterful performance as Freddy Heineken. The scenes were definitely the saving moments for this film. Too bad there weren't more of them.
On paper, this sounded like it could be a very interesting crime film. Five complete amateurs in crime dream big, kidnap a multimillionaire and earn a huge payback and then some. How did they pull it off? How did they treat their victim who was their goldmine? What was the aftermath of their actions? Unfortunately, the script by William Brookfield, adapted from the books by Dutch investigative reporter Peter de Vries, was more turgid than exciting. The uneven direction by Daniel Alfredson also failed to make the weak script fly.
The setting is obviously Amsterdam, but the kidnappers talked and behaved like they were London punks. The abduction scene per se was not shot with much cinematic imagination nor verve. Everything was done so seriously, with hardly any sense of humor (except maybe for the Bang Bang chicken scene). The chase action scenes were well-executed, but too few and far between. Ultimately, the filmmakers were not able to create any moments to really remember it by. In fact, this movie even felt tedious despite its brevity. 5/10.