Kidnapping Freddy Heineken (2 stars)

Kidnapping Freddy Heineken

Anthony Hopkins distinguishes himself in an otherwise curdled caper

The true story of the 1983 kidnapping in the Netherlands of the chairman and heir of the Heineken brewing company, which resulted in the largest ransom ever paid for an individual, is told here in the language of the superficial, blokey caper movie.

There’s a degree of swagger to the presentation, but not much else of merit in Swedish director Daniel Alfredson's film, which also fails to solve the critical narrative problem of mobilising sympathy for a gang of morally bankrupt perpetrators. That trick only tends to work if the bad guys in question are remarkably charismatic and / or funny and this crew aren’t. They’re not even very distinct from one another, except in the variable degrees of effort they’re making with their Dutch accents (it doesn’t help that co-leads Sam Worthington and Jim Sturgess look alike, even with Sturgess sporting an unflattering bleach job).

The characters are played as fairly mild young men motivated by fairly mild problems to do something both reprehensible and vastly risky. The film offers scant reasoning as to what took them to such an extreme – which, given that they were real people, would seem to indicate a lack of effort on the part of the filmmakers. Tellingly, Peter R de Vries, the author of the source book adapted here by William Brookfield, has distanced himself from the film, citing a lack of accuracy.

Nor can this narrative decide whether to paint the kidnapping as a masterstroke of planning, or a series of bungles; it gestures towards both, and the effort to combine daft comedy with macho drama results in a curdled mix. Anthony Hopkins adds a nice dose of screen presence as the titular Mr Heineken, but it’s hard not to feel that this victim deserved to be at the centre of a more interesting crime.

Selected release from Fri 3 Apr.

Kidnapping Freddy Heineken

  • 2 stars
  • 2015
  • Belgium / UK / Netherlands
  • Directed by: Daniel Alfredson
  • Written by: William Brookfield, Peter R. de Vries
  • Cast: Sam Worthington, Anthony Hopkins, Jim Sturgess
  • UK release: 3 April 2015

The true story of the 1983 kidnapping of the chairman and heir of the Heineken brewing company is told as a superficial and blokey caper, with perpetrators Worthington and Sturgess fatally lacking in charisma and their motives largely unexplained. Hopkins as the titular character adds screen presence, but deserves a…