J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken: Holland’s Most Notorious Abduction

Alfred Henry “Freddy” Heineken was sort of like the Netherlands’ Lindbergh Baby, except he was nobody’s victim. A desperate group of disenfranchised construction workers pulled off the truly daring abduction, but getting away clean turned out to be a trickier proposition. Nevertheless, their crime-of-the-century had considerable long term consequences that are duly revealed in Daniel Alfredson’s Kidnapping Mr. Heineken (trailer here), which opens this Friday.

Frankly, if Holland in the early 1980s had better respected property rights, Cor van Hout and his business partners might have never resorted to crime. They desperately needed a loan to keep their small construction enterprise afloat, but their only collateral was a building infested with legally protected squatters—not exactly a property the bank would be happy to assume should they default. Ironically, old man Heineken, a supporter of the Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, probably would have empathized. Regardless, when Van Hout and his hot-tempered mate Willem Holleeder resolve to follow Willie Sutton’s advice and go where the money is, it necessarily means Mr. Heineken.

Showing considerable patience, Van Hout, Holleeder, and their accomplices spend two years in planning, rather than rushing into the operation. They want the authorities to assume Heineken was grabbed by a well-funded international terrorist organization or the mob. Initially, it all goes according to plan, but old man Heineken is cool customer. His chauffeur Ab Doderer is a different story. Heineken tries to reassure his panicking employee through the walls of their makeshift cells, but the working class immigrant is not holding up well.

You can expect to see a lot of negative reviews of Mr. Heineken from those hung up on class warfare rhetoric because of its largely positive portrayal of Freddy Heineken. He is consistently calm, collected, and caring with respects to poor Doderer. It is also rich to learn how he responded to his kidnapping as a capitalist once he was released (no thanks to his captors).

In large measure, Mr. Heineken is the sort of caper film where the whole point is to watch it go spectacularly wrong. Getting the ransom is the easy part, as it usually is. The getaway is way more difficult. However, in this case, the endgame is especially long and twisty.

Screenwriter William Brookfield incorporates a number of fascinating historical details into the narrative and the mostly British Commonwealth cast looks appropriately continental and suitably beaten down where applicable. Of course, Sir Anthony Hopkins is totally credible as Freddy Heineken, instantly establishing his intelligence and charisma. Jim Sturgess does his best work in years as the angsty Van Hout, while Sam Worthington is reliably tightly wound as Holleeder (but not nearly as awesome-nuts as he was in the under-rated Texas Killing Fields).

Alfredson, who helmed the second two Swedish Lisbeth Salander films, keeps the action moving along and the tension cranked up, despite the fatalistic direction it must take. Cinematographer Fredrik Bäckar also gives it a gritty look that nicely suits the times. It is quite a well-produced period-thriller that does justice to fascinating real life events. Recommended quite highly, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken launches on iTunes and opens in select theaters this Friday (3/6), including George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema in Albuquerque.

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