'Kidnapping Mr. Heineken'
Based on the most successful kidnapping in history (in terms of ransom returns) and featuring a pretty damn impressive British cast, ‘Kidnapping Mr. Heineken’ is a genre movie that should have made itself. The material is inherently exciting, the story undeniably compelling, and the performers are all talented enough to pull it off. Unfortunately, director Daniel Alfredson (the dull ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ sequels) seems to have agreed that the movie would take care of itself and drudged through the proceedings with a total lack of interest or innovation. This flick should begin its nosedive into obscurity somewhere in the middle of its opening weekend.
The date is 1983 and the world is in yet another economic recession. Cor (Jim Sturges), Willem (Sam Worthington) and a few of their poor buddies can’t get a bank loan to dig themselves out of debt, nor will the authorities even let them evict the squatters who have taken over the building they own together. Things are bad. Super duper bad. Bad enough that the gang decides to hatch an insane plot to get some of the cash that they so desperately need. They decide to kidnap Freddy Heineken (Anthony Hopkins), who owns a certain brand of beer that you may have heard of. To pull off the kidnapping, they also rob a bank to finance their dreams. Things go pretty well up until the moment when the gang demands a ransom and just can’t get paid. Heineken starts manipulating and messing with the boys and actually helps secure his own record-breaking ransom. From there, it must be a happily-ever-after tale that proves crime can pay, right? Yeah… not so much. These sorts of stories don’t tend to work out for anyone.
Alfredson directs the film in a manner that can only be described as competent. He stages heist and chase sequences that feel like heist and chase sequences, just without flare. The main cast are fine as the desperate burnouts. The world offers just the right balance of filth and grit. Hopkins clearly enjoys himself during the early stages of his manipulation. There are moments when the movie even feels a little harshly exciting in all the right ways. Unfortunately, none of it ever amounts to much. It’s very predictable and just becomes tedious. The shark-jump moment arrives when Hopkins is asked to go insane alone in his cell and chews scenery to such an absurd degree that any mild sense of credibility evaporates. Eventually, you find yourself watching only to count off all of the inevitable plot beats until the credits finally, mercifully roll.
The tough thing about a reviewing movie like ‘Kidnapping Mr. Heineken’ is that it’s neither strong enough to praise nor weak enough to rip apart. It just hovers on a level of inoffensive mediocrity without ever transcending or descending. Sure, it’s a passable enough time-waster for anyone desperate for a true crime thriller, but with source material this good, the final product should be better than passable. Perhaps the blame should be placed on Alfredson, who isn’t a particularly gifted director, or maybe it should be shared throughout the entire production team since hiring him to helm the movie was just one of the many middle-of-the-road decisions that plagued this project before it even got to screens. Either way, the movie deserves the fairly lackluster, tossed-off winter release that it has received. It’s good enough to play in theaters, just not good enough to deserve any special attention.