The criminals were childhood friends who were not hardened criminals yet each step toward setting themselves straight led them deeper into criminal enterprise and two of the perpetrators later evolved to become crime lords of the Netherlands. After receiving the ransom the five close friends were never in a room together again.
William Brookfield’s screenplay (adapted from a book by crime journalist Peter R de Vries) is an accurate but functional telling of the story. We’re succinctly introduced to the characters and why they choose to perpetrate this particular crime before getting straight into the action as they carry out their dubious activity. The downside to this efficient entry is we get very little time to attach to the characters or their relationship to each other making our investment in them succeeding minimal at best.
Everything is from the gang’s point of view with no perspective on how the police pursuit unfolds making the tension rather one-sided. The film seems to want to be based around the friendship of the men, coupled with some high octane action, but with underdeveloped relationships, too much screen time given to irrelevant tangents, and not a big enough budget for true spectacle things end up feeling bland and tensionless.
The cast work well with what they have and manage to be engaging and sometimes funny. Anthony Hopkins portrayal of Heineken is uncannily like the man himself, Sam Worthington, Jim Sturgess and Ryan Kwanten stand out and bring empathy to their roles but Mark van Eeuwen and David Dencik sadly don’t get the opportunity to evolve the psychological nature of their particular characters and the women are mostly ill utilised props.
The Amsterdam setting is used well (filming also took place in Brussels, Antwerp and New Orleans to recreate the run down Amsterdam of the1980s that has since been gentrified) and the period look of the film displays some very nice touches from the art department. Detail is present, particularly in illustrating the mechanics of holding captives to so long without detection, but the film’s budget means function rather than flair is the rule of thumb and cinematography, sound and score are limited to only what’s practical for the plot.
That said, the film works, has decent production standards and certainly tells the tale albeit without great depth. Worth watching if you like the actors or you’ve never heard the Heineken kidnapping story before and I defy you not to want to ride around in one of those cool eighties boxy cop cars.
The film’s primary redeeming quality though, is perhaps that it will make you go away and think about what the most important in your life are and the sacrifices you would make to have freedom to enjoy them.
Review by Leilani Holmes
[SRA value=”3″ type=”YN”]
Kidnapping Freddy Heineken is released in the UK in cinemas and on demand from 3rd April.