Everyone is familiar with the name Heineken, one of the world’s most famous brands of beer, but many of you may not be familiar with the kidnapping of the Dutch billionaire brewing magnate in 1983. This is the topic of the film <Kidnapping Freddy Heineken>. The film is based on crime journalist Peter R. de Vries’s account of what has been called “the most notorious kidnapping of the 21st century”. The abduction of the beer magnate Freddy Heineken (Anthony Hopkins) and his chauffeur, Ab Doderer, captured the world’s attention, as both men were held for what was the largest ransom for an individual at the time - 35 million Dutch Guilders at the time (the equivalent of USD50 million today) and both men were released unharmed after three weeks in captivity.
De Vries’s is an Emmy Award winning crime journalist and pursued the kidnappers (presumably during and after imprisonment) and gained their trust, resulting in an exhaustively researched, and bestselling account of the kidnapping from beginning to end.The script by William Brookfield and directing by Daniel Alfredson create a taut crime thriller that has a great cast of actors to bring the story to life: Jim Sturgess, Sam Worthington, Ryan Kwanten, mark van Eeuwen, Tom Cocquerel, Jemima West and Anthony Hopkins.
This ensemble piece about five childhood friends who are down on their luck (they are running a construction business that gets hard hit by a recession and they haven’t planned for any exigencies), so they are trying to find a way to make some money without too much effort. They are young and bold about their actions, hence coming up with the Heineken idea and they band together to carry out one of the biggest kidnappings in history, which was unusual at that time, because they weren’t hardened criminals, nor members of any crime organization, thus confounding the police at first; however, the police realize they are amateurs and do not respond to their demand as quickly as the boys expected, which creates great tension amongst the group of friends and, inevitably, results in them never seeing nor speaking to each other again.
It is a very entertaining and enthralling film for the audacity of their idea. You can see them being caught between not wanting to hurt the captives, and also wanting the ransom to be paid sooner than later and as things don’t go according to plan, their friendship starts to show cracks. What is even more interesting when watching the credits, is that police admitted they were given a tip earlier on in the proceedings without disclosing where it came from even to this day, thus resulting in the capture of all the criminal friends!
All of the key actors in the group of friends are strong and emotionally rich in their portrayals, with not one weak performance among them. The emotions of wanting to make a lot of money from the crime and look after one’s family for life is a contributing factor that you can see clearly drives all the friend’s actions. Plus you get to understand how simple mistakes put their plans at risk. Anthony Hopkins does not have a lot of screen time, but he is mesmerizing in his scenes and confronts one of the kidnappers with a truth that friendship and being wealthy can’t mix, plus a telling comment when being interviewed on release which comes to bear fruit: “you can run but you can’t hide” (with a wink to the camera!). The director has created a believable looking Amsterdam in the 1980’s and you have a sense you are part of that historical setting, as it were. It is also refreshing to enjoy a film like this with just a simple story of friendship to propel the story line and without the usual violence. Highly recommended.