If I'm being honest, "The Heineken Kidnapping" is one of the most frustrating films that I've endeavored to review in a very long time. This Dutch film by Maarten Treurniet has a fantastic true life story to draw from, but fails to provide much insight into the actual event even as it covers a lot of ground. Based in fact (although with the usual dramatic liberties), the film revolves around the 1983 case in which Freddy Heineken (yes, the brewing mogul) was abducted and held for ransom over a three week period. The culprits were low level, relatively inexperienced Amsterdam criminals who extracted millions for the industrialist only to be immediately ensnared in an International manhunt. Sounds like a great idea for a movie! And let me just say that "The Heineken Kidnapping" is an exceedingly well made and well acted movie. What frustrates me, however, is that its focus is so broad--you end up understanding very little about the actual incident. I don't feel as if the characters (either Heineken or the kidnappers) are developed in much depth. The details of the kidnapping aren't delineated very well, the police investigation is only hinted at, the trial aspect is fairly vague. At no point do I think the film's screenplay really mines the material for what its worth. This should have been and could have been absolutely riveting and unforgettable. But here's the rub. Despite these huge reservations, I still liked "The Heineken Kidnapping" and I'm not sure I should have.
The great Rutger Hauer plays Freddy Heineken. While he has the gravitas and screen presence to keep you involved, he doesn't have much to do until the film's second half. The first part of the movie introduces the quartet of guys who are staging the crime. The central character is a young man by the name of Rem who actually masterminds the idea of abducting Heineken and brings it to the group. Young, volatile, and with a grudge against Heineken, Rem is portrayed as a fairly normal youth until he turns into a completely unrepentant sociopath. I never particularly felt that the script connected to his character, which it fundamentally needed to do. I never identified with him, the other three kidnappers, Heineken, or any of the other peripheral characters. With this distance to the characters, the movie loses some emotional impact. The story, however, is so incredible that it might even make up for this disconnect. But once again, the script refuses to dig into the details of the case. Seriously, I know very little more about the incident than before I watched the movie. Anyone expecting this to be the definitive story will surely be confounded by everything it DOESN'T tell you.
Sounds like I hated it. But that's just it, I really didn't. I think that the movie severely fails to live up to its true potential, but I still enjoyed it. It's always a pleasure to see Hauer and Reinout Scholten van Aschat (as Rem) has a fascinating intensity. As the story takes Heineken from the victim to the pursuer, it's an interesting angle to explore. The movie looks terrific and all of the actors are quite good despite the limitations of the screenplay. Individual scenes are well constructed and several action sequences are expertly staged. And I did get a kick from the big finale. I'm giving "The Heineken Kidnapping" a four star rating for these reasons, although it might just as well have been three stars for the others. With this cast and crew, "The Heineken Kidnapping" easily had the potential to be one of the year's best films. It falls short of that designation for sure, but it's a fascinating story nevertheless. KGHarris, 8/12.