Based on a true story of a ragtag group of kidnappers who landed the biggest ransom ever, see ‘Kidnapping Mr. Heineken’ because the incomparable Anthony Hopkins shines. (Becker Film Group photo)
Academy Award-winner Anthony Hopkins is the reason to see “Kidnapping Mr. Heineken,” the latest crime drama from Swedish director Daniel Alfredson, best known for “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.”
The movie is based on the 1983 kidnapping of Alfred “Freddy” Heineken (Hopkins), the chairman of the board of directors and CEO of the brewing company Heineken International, and his driver Ab Doderer (David Dencik). The story should’ve made for a whopper of a thriller, but it falls a little short.
That’s not to say it isn’t worth seeing — it is. Aside from the splendor that is Hopkins, there are great action sequences including a police chase and bank robbery. The real-life kidnappers were a ragtag gang who somehow managed to pull off the caper and land their ransom of $35 million Dutch gilders (close to $18 million U.S. dollars). It has been labeled the largest ransom ever paid for any kidnapped person in history.
Billionaire Heineken was one of the richest people in the Netherlands, and his family paid the ransom money against the advice of the police. After being kept in separate rooms, and chained, both captives were released unharmed after three weeks. Eventually, all of the kidnappers were caught.
Hopkins in a scene from the movie. (Becker Film Group photo)
In this movie version, Willem Holleeder (Sam Worthington) plays the alpha dog who planned the crime for two years with his business partner and main sidekick, Cor Van Hout (Jim Sturgess). In the real story, the truth never came out about who ratted out the scoundrels, but in this film, Van Hout proves to be the weak link. He becomes burdened with conscience and homesickness for his wife. He calls her from the hideaway. Bad move. Big mistake.
The rest of the kidnapping team included Jan “Cat” Boellard (Ryan Kwanten), Martin “Brakes” Erkamps (Thomas Cocquerel) and Frans “Spikes” Meijer (Mark van Eeuwen). In the end, even after the huge ransom they received, their crime did not pay.
The most fun for me was watching Hopkins use his wits to toy with the witless kidnappers. He was able to smile as he chattered away, planting niggling seeds of doubt in the kidnappers’ heads to undermine their confidence and create sprouts of paranoia. The personality clashes among the criminals is fun to watch.
As for the historical background vs. entertainment treatments, the screenplay for “Kidnapping Mr. Heineken” was written by William Brookfield and Dutch investigative journalist Peter R. de Vries. In 1983, de Vries followed the kidnapping and reported for the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf and then wrote two books on the subject. The first was 1983’s “The Heineken Case;” the second, 1987’s “The Kidnapping of Alfred Heineken,” was the book this screenplay was based on. It is written from Van Hout’s perspective of the crime and based on actual interviews de Vries had conducted with Van Hout and Holleeder in 1986.
Out of a possible five stars, my vote is three.
“Kidnapping Mr. Heineken” opens in theaters Friday, March 6. Action crime drama. Rated R. 95 min.