Kidnapping Freddy Heineken – Review

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When presenting a thriller that depicts a collective of seemingly hapless criminals attempting to pull off one of the most ambitious hostage plots of all time, you would imagine that the most prevalent theme of all is suspense – and yet that is exactly what is lacking most from Daniel Alfredson’s Kidnapping Freddy Heineken, which, as you can imagine, is rather detrimental to the overall enjoyment of the piece.

Based entirely on true events: taking place in the early 1980s in Amsterdam, Holland, we meet Cor Van Hout (Jim Sturgess) and Willem Holleeder (Sam Worthington), who, alongside a group of subservient accomplices, decide to kidnap the super-rich alcohol tycoon Freddy Heineken (Anthony Hopkins), alongside his driver (David Dencik), and demand a seemingly unfathomable ransom fee – for the pair – and it’s an amount they know is attainable. The question is, will Heineken’s people pay the money before the police discover the hostage’s whereabouts?

First and foremost, it’s intriguing to witness this narrative from the perspective of the captors, rather than the victim, which is more often the case in cinema. However that only works if the characters are well crafted and believable, and regrettably this isn’t the case at all. Their humanity is certainly emphasised, and there’s a real inclination to portray them as flawed, clumsy individuals – but unlike in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, for instance, we’re never able to abide by them, and root for their cause. Not that we should, given they’re attempting to pull off a merciless crime, but Alfredon has presented his film in such a way that sympathising with these protagonists is evidently the ultimate goal – and yet it’s never achieved. It doesn’t help that they have so little distinctive idiosyncrasies; while the lack of authenticity is distracting, with the actors maintaining their native accents, rather than attempt Dutch – which doesn’t help the viewer suspend their disbelief.

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Kidnapping Freddy Heineken is simply too generic, and doesn’t make use of the fascinating material at hand, devaluing itself and cheapening the experience with a frustrating faithfulness to the tropes of the thriller genre – including a hackneyed score to rub salt in the wounds. Yet the biggest crime of all is underusing Hopkins so dramatically – not only as an actor, but as a character too, as his is one of the few with some actual personality.

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About Stefan Pape

Stefan Pape is a film critic and interviewer who spends most of his time in dark rooms, sipping on filter coffee and becoming perilously embroiled in the lives of others. He adores the work of Billy Wilder and Woody Allen, and won’t have a bad word said against Paul Giamatti.

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