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Monday, May 4, 2015

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken 2015 * * 1/2 Stars

Kidnapping Mr. HeinekenDirector: Daniel Alfredson
Year: 2015
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Sam Worthington, Anthony Hopkins

2015's Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is the latest film co-starring Sir Anthony Hopkins. At ninety-five hasty minutes, it's a true story adaptation devoid of inspiration yet loaded with veneer. Hopkins, with a voice that seems as mellifluous as the sound of crashing waves in the ocean, plays the title character. Portraying Freddy Heineken, he's a wealthy guy, the CEO of Heineken International (the beer company of course), and a debonair soul taken hostage by five desperate criminals. I gotta tell ya, Hannibal Lecter is an absolute hoot playing this character. There's no fear in him and a certain nonchalantness to the way he's held captive in a soundproof room. He wants books to read, he needs some variance in the music played while awaiting ransom demands, and boy does he crave plenty of bang bang chicken from the local Chinese restaurant. Truth be told, I've never seen a characterized victim so laid back in his catastrophic predicament. This is just another business transaction for a guy who pisses a poultry, one million dollars.

"Heineken", with its crackling dialogue and Holland-based locales, is directed by newcomer Daniel Alfredson. As a motion picture, it moves at a riotously fast clip. It's witty and dark, nasty and last-ditch. We're talking lock, stock, and five smoking bandits. The film score featured is in a word, calculated. It's baseline for a heist/abduction spectacle. And mind you, it's only made more effective by the lightning-quick editing that Mr. Hakan Karlsson bestows upon us (he cut the TV series, Millennium). But what's the basis for this vehicle I'm about to propose as a mixed review? Well, things end on a run-of-the-mill note. We're talking about true events with minimal evidence via the fugitives (an anonymous tip, really?), vacant spacial reckoning, and absolutely no one to root for. In all honesty, I figured the bad guys who were despicably charismatic here, would carry this thing through. I was wrong. I denounce these proceedings as a misstep of the most exorbitant order. Give me 1991's Point Break or 2010's The Town as a true, alternative viewing prospect.

With a script based on a book by Peter R. de Vries and some ruggedly shocking violence early on, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken follows five down on their luck schleps who use to run a business (it was unclear to me what they did for a living and that was frustrating). The time setting is early 80's posh and within the first few minutes, the dirty, thirtysomethings are seen trying to get a bank loan. They are in a sense, broke. Things then go afoul (loan approval is denied) leaving them no choice but to abduct Freddy Heineken (Hopkins). He's worth a boatload of money and their plan is to get at least thirty-five million Dutch guilders from him (at the time this was the highest ransom on record). The merry men/culprits consist of Willem Holleeder (played by Sam Worthington), Cor van Hout (played by Jim Sturgess), Jan Boellard (played by Ryan Kwanten), Frans Meijer (played by Mark van Eeuwen), and Martin Erkamps (played by Thomas Cocquerel). The names just mentioned are all real life people. They are Dutch criminals who served (and still may be serving) lengthy prison terms. The actors that play them give off a sort of goofball vibe. One moment they're serious and astute. The next minute they're ribbing each other, telling penis jokes, and taking male bonding to an unhinged, fraternity level. In essence, "Heineken" didn't garner my recommendation but I liked the way the cast played thespian ping pong on the back and forth tip.

Now in all uprightness, I've never seen a movie where the screenwriters are so enthralled with the intricacies of kidnapping. It's as if they consulted known criminals currently serving life without parole. Every detail is woven into the first hour like the villainous characters wearing masks, all the felonious activity being done locally, the use of voice alteration to talk to victims, and the adage of a ransom note untouched by human fingerprints. Granted, this isn't an exercise about the people being taken nor is it a character study about law enforcement heavy on certain malefactor's trails. No what's on screen is strictly about the art of holding someone against their will. And it involves characters we really know nothing about. I mean how did these guys become professional criminals so quickly? And how is it that they know so much about the planning of such a heinous act? Finally, they are businessmen with families so what begot their vile nature? Then there's the other questions I asked myself during "Heineken". They pertained to the police. So OK, why doesn't a law official have any speaking lines? And why don't we the audience, get an idea of their inside strategy via bringing these despairing crooks to justice? Obviously, a lot of research went into formulating a hypothetical Kidnapping For Dummies. Too bad every other attribute fell by the wayside.

All in all, this is not a disastrous crime drama, just a borderline, mediocre one. I viewed "Heineken" wondering why it took thirty-three years for its true story sensibilities to come to fruition. And as its ending credits filtered in, I also thought to myself, "this is the culmination of three plus decades in development?" The lowest point: Everyone involved really drops the ball with period detail. We're supposed to be taking in Amsterdam circa 1982. Instead, what's on screen could have probably passed as present day (all you gotta do is look at everybody's modern hairstyles to know what I'm getting at). Bottom line: This is a ho hum tribute presented by its filmmakers. It almost veers into slick, direct-to-video territory. In the beginning of its hour and a half-plus running time, the Jim Sturgess character (Cor van Hout) says, "that's all crime is, it's a wager." Interesting thought. I'd say if I had to wager anything on the staying power of this flick, it'd be a middling investment. My rating: A disappointing 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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