The kidnapping of Dutch businessman and brewing company CEO Freddy Heineken (surely not a Pabst Blue Ribbon guy) held the Netherlands in thrall for several weeks in November 1983. Many thought the abductors were a well-organized terrorist group like Baader-Meinhof, but they were actually a quintet of low-grade criminals out for a lucrative payday. (Thirty-five million Dutch guilders were eventually paid as ransom, though none of the crew got away scot-free.)
A Dutch film starring Rutger Hauer as Heineken was released in 2011; this irritating, machismo-laden, English-language production, based on a novel by investigative journalist Peter R. De Vries, keeps the Amsterdam setting, yet casts most of the roles with British and Australian actors, none of whom are at their best. A thoroughly disinterested Anthony Hopkins is Heineken, who spends most of the movie chained to a wall in the soundproofed room of a modified Quonset hut. Silence Of The Lambs showed that Hopkins knows how to jazz up minimal screen time and cramped quarters. But aside from the occasional mischievous smirk—self-amusement seems to be Heineken’s survival tactic of choice—there’s little life to the actor’s performance, a paycheck gig all the way.
The movie is more concerned with the kidnappers, and they’re a cocky, beer-swilling bunch of the kind it’d be best to avoid on a pub crawl. Cor Van Hout (Jim Sturgess) is the head of the operation, and, for a few scenes, the story’s tormented soul—though one gets the sense that the attempts to humanize his character (maybe he really does want to be a blue-collar family man instead of a criminal mastermind?) are half-hearted at best. There are few such complications with Willem Holleeder (Sam Worthington), the man’s man of the group whose only reflective moment comes when he volunteers to draw Heineken’s blood and can’t bring himself to do it. Otherwise he’s further evidence of Worthington’s blustery, charisma-free qualities as a leading man, whether in this world or Pandora. Ryan Kwanten, Mark Van Eeuwen, and Thomas Cocquerel round out the unmerry band of abductors, each performer outshone by their respective mullet wigs and period wardrobes.
At least director Daniel Alfredson (helmer of the two Noomi Rapace-led sequels to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) keeps things moving briskly, though in all other respects he does yeoman work. Too many sequences (like an early bank heist and boat chase scene) lean heavily on Lucas Vidal’s overemphatic score to generate tension that is otherwise lacking. And even after the plan falls apart and the tight-knit criminals begin to vehemently question each other’s loyalty, there’s barely an emotionally resonant moment to be had. Much like the lager that gives the film its name, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is bland on the palette and best pissed away.