Kidnapping Freddy Heineken
In 1983, five young Dutchmen – Cor van Hout, Willem Holleeder, Frans “Spikes” Meijer, Jan “Cat” Boellaard and Martin Erkamps – masterminded the kidnap of beer tycoon Alfred Heineken, which led to the largest ransom ever paid for an individual. The Dutch magazine Panorama, which extensively covered the episode and its aftermath, published their account in 2010 via journalist Nick Kivits, in the book De Heineken Ontvoering. This was followed a year later by a fictionalised version of events in a Dutch film of the same title. So this is a story that has already been sufficiently documented both in fact and fiction.
In the new British-Dutch film Kidnapping Freddy Heineken, director Daniel Alfredson turns to the angle presented by Peter R de Vries in his 1987 book, De Ontvoering van Alfred Heineken, which recounts the kidnapping from the point of view of one of the kidnappers, Van Hout. It’s clear that the aim of this reproduction of a well-chronicled local tale is to sell to the masses, especially in the English-speaking world.
The casting of Anthony Hopkins as Heineken, and Jim Sturgess and Sam Worthington as the principal kidnappers van Hout and Holleeder respectively, actually goes some way towards achieving this. Aside from the jarring mishmash of accents, they deliver performances that will give this story the Hollywood impact that it seeks. This version of the story is set up to elicit some empathy for the kidnappers, and Worthington and co paint a convincing picture of ordinary, hardworking friends forced into this extreme course of action by an unfortunate turn of events.
The action sequence in the beginning – where the five friends attack the squatters who found a legal loophole to occupy their property – seems out of place, as the plot pulls out every tool to assert these boys’ reluctance to harm throughout. There are a couple of other similar lacklustre action sequences where this film could either have done better and made this an action blockbuster, or done without altogether and told the same story of ordinary men forced into extraordinary choices. Although we get some interesting shots of the Amsterdam skyline, there is nothing particularly spectacular about the visual or sound effects and overall, notwithstanding the high-profile cast, it feels like this was a production with one eye constantly on the budget.
Kidnapping Freddy Heineken is watchable and will probably achieve its goal of bringing this interesting story to the masses, but it will not last long in the memory as far as great cinema goes.
Kidnapping Freddy Heineken is released nationwide on 3rd April 2015.
Watch the trailer for Kidnapping Freddy Heineken here: