Film Review – Kidnapping Mr. Heineken
Kidnapping Mr. Heineken
Kidnapping Mr. Heineken puts us into the paranoid mind set of the kidnappers in this tense true crime drama. Knowing nothing about the case of the beer moguls abduction before seeing the film I did have a lot of assumptions about what would happen that did turn out to be true but it remarkably didn’t take away from the momentum of the film’s events. The constant movement is what gives this film its strength but when it tries to sit still and build characters and “morality” it slows down.
For the first fifteen minutes it was actually pretty discouraging. The five would-be kidnappers seemed interchangeable as characters with little distinguishing them. All are having tough times and are unable to get a loan to get their construction business going. We are given details of the two lead kidnappers’ home lives but little else. Willem Holleeder (Sam Worthington), who is the coldest of the bunch, doesn’t get along with his father and his brother-in-law Cor Van Hout (Jim Sturgess) who has just found out his wife is pregnant. These events, while possibly true, (with “based on” true stories it can be hard to tell) feel overly cinematic to an attempt to get us to empathize with these men.
So their troubles lead to a plan to abduct Freddy Heineken (Anthony Hopkins) due to his proximity, wealth, and some lingering resentment due to his firing Holleeder’s father from the company years ago (something the father actually doesn’t seem to mind). As they plan the kidnapping we see the detail that goes into how they prepare the holding area, and how they present themselves as kidnappers trying to appear as a political or criminal organization to take suspicion off them. This creates a bit more curiosity about seeing how this kind of crime works, but it is after the kidnapping happens that things get really interesting. They are now in a situation where they are waiting for the police to respond to their demands, and we see them start to get antsy under the pressure of wondering if the police are onto them.
Watching as they decide what to do when things are left uncertain, we see them debating. Do they let him go? Do they become more violent? These men are not played as inhuman monsters but as people familiar with crime but are now potentially in over their heads. This dichotomy raised some interesting thoughts about how smart this group could be about preparing for the crime but also the many little mistakes that they could make that would be catastrophic for them.
Director Daniel Alfredson has a great sense of timing, keeping his action moments going while never leaving us from the faces of these people so we can see the nervousness and intensity they are going through in their escapades. As the camera moves the sense of the space these characters are in is very clear so we are aware of the narrow road space they have to travel with hard curves they have to navigate, showing this isn’t the clear roads of most action movies. Over these scenes the musical score plays up not so much excitement but a sense of unease with everything that is going on, having a slight light tone that makes you uncertain what is going to happen. Alfredson has a weakness in some of the “message” he is trying to infuse into the film. Heineken at one point has a line that was obviously supposed to be a moral the movie was throwing at us: “There are two ways a man can be rich in this world: he can have a lot of money, or he can have a lot of friends. He cannot have both.” It even plays over the end credits to really hammer this home and is very unnecessary, considering it was more the crime itself that ruined them than having the money. Either way it is a bit insulting and discouraging considering the film does do a good job on its own of showing how things start to tear at these guys. It didn’t need this heavy-handed message.
Then there is Anthony Hopkins as Heineken who I thought was going to be a bit of stunt casting. We got him for this bit movie part and I expected he wouldn’t do much with the role but he surprised me. As Heineken he takes the kidnapping in a different light trying to maintain some power over the group but is also under pressure because he isn’t certain what will happen to him or his driver who was also abducted. Despite this pressure he never becomes overly emotional and reveals very little of himself at any moment. This is a man who is used to being in control and Hopkins is able to give him the gravitas of a wealthy man.
As a true crime film this ended up being much more interesting than what it set itself up as being. There is a sense throughout of how does this kind of crime work? Is it worth the risk of getting a huge amount of money when you could spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder? It is a choice that cannot be undone and can do more damage than one would think possible. It is an old message but when it is shown in all its horror it takes on a sense of realism not usually expressed in crime/action films.