A listless crime caper based on a true story which is nearly saved by Anthony Hopkins

What should be better than a heist film? A heist film based on a true story. Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is based on the kidnapping of Alfred “Freddy” Heineken in 1983. The beer tycoon’s kidnapping resulted in the largest ransom ever paid for an individual. It was sensational news in Europe at the time. The incident was famous enough that another film was made on the subject in 2011 with Rutger Hauer. Daniel Alfredson directs this mostly low-key heist thriller exploring the tensions between Heineken’s kidnappers, a bumbling group of friends who weren’t career criminals before pulling off this heist.

Anthony Hopkins plays the wealthy Freddy Heineken in his inimitable style. It is a bit of a shame his role is reduced in the crime caper to secondary player; Hopkins plays his role with more sparkle and charisma than the rest of this fairly uninspired cast. The audacious kidnapping is pulled off by five friends led by Cor (Jim Sturgess) and Willem (Sam Worthington). Unable to get a loan for their failing business in Amsterdam, the burgeoning criminals think kidnapping one of Europe’s wealthiest men should solve all their problems.

Kidnapping the wealthy Heineken and his driver off the streets of Amsterdam is a bold plan cooked up by desperate men. Things go unexpectedly well for the inexperienced and underfunded criminals when the kidnapping works without a hitch. The group bickers and falls apart when the ransom isn’t immediately paid off. The men weren’t prepared for an extended kidnapping. The hardened Willem begins to get more volatile within the group, willing to do things in pursuit of the ransom far more heinous than everyone else. Complications arise for Cor when he gets Sonja pregnant, Willem’s sister. How is Cor supposed to pull this heist off with a child on the way? As the brains of the operation, Cor is critical to its success for the group.

The gritty film does not descend into a parody of heist tropes, its characters are fleshed-out enough to avoid the typical cliches.

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken paints a fairly convincing portrait of inexperienced criminals in over their heads. The problem with this film is that its most compelling character is Freddy Heineken himself, mostly due to Anthony Hopkins’s fine performance. Heineken had turned his beer company into an international powerhouse and the man was a shrewd operator. You get the sense Freddy Heineken was handling his kidnappers more than the kidnappers were handling him. That is fine but Hopkins’s role doesn’t drive the narrative, that is left to lesser characters like Cor and Willem. Sturgess valiantly tries to invest more emotion in Cor than I think the script intended.

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken has some things going for it if you like true crime capers. There is a rather impressive chase scene through the streets and canals of Amsterdam. The gritty film does not descend into a parody of heist tropes, its characters are fleshed-out enough to avoid the typical cliches. A better film focusing on the back and forth between Freddy Heineken and his kidnappers could have been made with this cast and crew. Instead we get the slow breakdown of trust within a group of childhood friends that were more ambitious than they were smart. Despite the solid cast I couldn’t help but think this was a story better suited for the small screen.

Movie ★★★☆☆

Planning @ 11:30

The only production information I could find on Kidnapping Mr. Heineken was that the European movie was filmed on the Arri Alexa XT Plus camera. This is one of the softest Blu-ray experiences I’ve seen from this line of digital cameras. While watching the Blu-ray I was thinking more along the lines of Super 16 film with its rather rough video quality. The cinematography is murky, filled with rough noise, and possesses dull colors. The Blu-ray transfer is a mess as well, supposedly from a digital intermediate. Something is wrong with this presentation’s black levels. There are very few moments which hit inky levels of blackness. It could be an elevated gamma level or the contrast was badly brightened.

The 94-minute main feature is encoded in AVC MPEG-4 on a BD-25. The mediocre video encode averages 21.99 Mbps. It chokes on the gritty texture and swaths of ISO noise, producing swarms of random noise and compression artifacts. Some of the problem is clearly due to the limited cinematography, which looks to have been shot with as little resolution as they could get away with on a modern camera. That may have been a conscious aesthetic choice for the period piece but there was no reason to remind anyone of VHS resolution and softness. This is flat, ugly Hi-Def video shot on the cheap.

No true black levels, poor high-frequency information, and a terrible video encode add up to a rather limp 1080P video presentation. Blu-ray distributor Alchemy (formerly known as Millennium Video) does preserve the intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Video ★★☆☆☆

The main audio option is a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. A secondary 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack at 192 kbps is included. Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles display in a white font. The subtitles remain inside the scope framing of the main feature at all times.

Outside of one well-done action scene, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is a heist film filled with normal dialogue. The surround mix isn’t terrible, but isn’t particularly memorable either outside of some minor surround cues and a little ambiance thrown in for effect. The dialogue is mostly clean and intelligible. Some gunshots and other criminal activities get a more aggressive sound design, enhanced with enough mid-bass for an effective jolt. Nothing stands out from the ordinary sonic expectations found on a lossless Blu-ray soundtrack.

Audio ★★★☆☆

Alchemy includes trailers for some of their other releases and six brief deleted scenes from this film. Most of the deleted content relates to Sonja, Cor’s pregnant baby momma. Her arc seemingly landed on the cutting room floor. There is nothing especially revelatory about this material. A nicely-embossed slipcover with red foil accents is available.

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken Trailer (02:00 in HD)

Millennium Video Trailers (08:28 in HD) – These are accessible from the main menu and also play before it: The Humbling, Good People, By The Gun, The World Made Straight

Money Trouble Deleted Scene (00:51 in HD)

Are You Alright Deleted Scene (01:22 in HD)

You Guys Need A Break Deleted Scene (00:51 in HD)

Sleep Deleted Scene (00:51 in HD)

American Beer Deleted Scene (00:42 in HD)

Waiting Deleted Scene (00:46 in HD)

Extras ★☆☆☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *