Review: Kidnapping Freddy Heineken

The true story of the 1983 kidnapping of beer tycoon Freddy Heinken gets a second big screen treatment - this time from Swedish film-maker Daniel Alfredson. The tale was previously adapted into a Dutch feature in 2011 with Rutger Hauer taking the title role. This English-language version sees Anthony Hopkins now in that role, alongside Jim Sturgess, Ryan Kwanten, and Sam Worthington who complete the main cast. The result is a misjudged affair that is low on energy and ambling in its narrative structure.

Frustrated with their failure to get a business loan, a group of men decide to kidnap beer tycoon Freddy Heineken and demand the largest ransom ever paid. Kidnapping Freddy Heineken subsequently follows the planning, execution, and aftermath of the crime.

There is certainly a great film lurking within the story of the Heineken kidnapping but sadly neither the Dutch or English language versions have been able to find it. The only slightly engaging aspects about both adaptations are the title performances. Hauer remained unscathed in the Dutch picture and managed to inject some of his natural enigmatic charisma to the proceedings, whilst Hopkins fairs similarly well here bringing a harsh authority to Heineken. The actor presents a man with nerves of steel, unflinchingly bold in the face of his inept captors - in fact, the alcohol tycoon is more intimidating than the criminals who hold him. Yet sadly there just isn't enough of the actor here to keep events watchable - instead screenwriter William Brookfield focuses more on the build-up to the kidnapping and messy aftermath.

The main issue with Alfredson's film is the sluggish pacing heightened by an uneventful screenplay. There's an inordinate build-up to the actual kidnapping coupled with attempts to give us an insight into the drab family life of the kidnappers. Heineken is kidnapped half-way through and by that point we have lost all interest in the events. The kidnappers lack any depth - their motivations aren't even clearly established - and it's therefore a challenge to invest in any of them. There's no real sense of tension or stakes in the kidnap or escape sequences thanks to lethargic direction and weak characterisation. A tired eighties setting and washed-out visual aesthetic only further the lethargic nature of Kidnapping Freddy Heineken.

Despite a cast of well-know young actors taking the roles of the kidnappers, each performer fails to hit his mark. Sturgess looks awkward under a dodgy blonde haircut and never convinces in the relationship dynamic exterior to the kidnapping. Although he was a huge scene-stealer in True Blood, Kwanten fades into the background here - a similar fate is faced by Sam Worthington. These kidnappers are all so infuriatingly inept that Alfredson's scenes of them being brought to justice could potentially redeem - but these also prove just as forgettable as the content that precedes them.

Kidnapping Freddy Heineken is a drab true crime picture that lacks the taut, clammy tension that a great kidnap thriller thrives on. Hopkins is a welcome presence, but lacks the screentime to make a lasting impact. If kidnap films had beer equivalents this would be the light alcohol free variety.  

Director: Daniel Alfredson
Stars: Jim Sturgess, Sam Worthington, Ryan Kwanten & Anthony Hopkins
UK Release: 3rd April 2015 (On Demand) / 8th June 2015 (Home Release)

Verdict"If kidnap films had beer equivalents this would be the light alcohol free variety."

Sam Worthington 1504902676454494492

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