Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Thrills, fun, surprise -- and beer -- in Daniel Alfredson's KIDNAPPING MR. HEINEKEN

Most kidnapping movies these days are nasty affairs, often with torture and murder tossed in for good measure, so it's a pleasure to report that today's film -- KIDNAPPING MR. HEINEKEN (yes, it's that beer guy), based on a real-life event that many Americans might not be familiar with, occurring in (and lasting most of) the month of November, 1983, in The Netherlands -- is a straight-ahead, what-happened-and-why affair that sticks mostly to the facts, while providing pretty good character studies of the participants as it rolls perkily along.

As co-written by and William Brookfield and reporter Peter R. de Vries and directed handily by Sweden's Daniel Alfredson (shown at left), the film presents us with a group of pals, somewhat down on their luck and looking to make a killing somehow or other, who, when one of its earlier get-rich-quick schemes (below) goes bad, decides to kidnap the local beer maven. The IQ level and social/ emotional smarts of this group vary, so its usual leaders -- Cor (Jim Sturgess) and Willem (Sam Worthington) -- take over to see that events go as planned.

Of course they don't -- which is part of the fun. Other parts are provided by the back stories, especially that of Willem and his family. His father, it seems, spent much of his working life in the Heineken employ and was treated with something less than care and respect when he was let go. Mr. Worthington (below) keeps his anger at a simmer throughout and is quite effective.

Mr. Sturgess (below), on the other hand, seems the more chipper of the two: smart and quick to respond, but with the occasional flciker of anger and hurt that is never fullly explained. When you read the end titles that tell us what eventually happens to each of our fellows, this will give you some interesting information upon which to chew. Meanwhile, you can sit back and enjoy the thrills and surprises -- one of the best of which is provided by, of all things, a Xerox machine.

Not a surprise: how very good is one of the stars of the film, Anthony Hopkins, in the title role. We usually expect good things from this actor, and he does not disappoint here, bringing a fierce intelligence and a certan charm to the role of the beer magnate. Despite the care he appears to show for his chauffeur, who is also kidnapped and threatened with death, you can, without too much effort, ascertain in this man the ability to cast aside anything or anyone that stands in his way.

Hopkins' role, however, is but a supporting one. We could have used more of him, for sure, but that would have taken away from the propulsion and momentum the movie gains as it goes along. The rest of the supporting cast is OK, too, though only Mark van Eeuwen stands out as the worst of these bad apples. Ryan Kwanten is given so little to do that he once again mostly fades into the woodwork as one of the crew, but David Dencik registers well as Heineken's cowed driver.

Any women's roles are mostly decoration, though the actresses do what they can, given their minimal screen time. This one is all about boys being boys, and as such, it comes through as decent fun and games. If it doesn't generate as much box-office as it might, that's probably because it opts for character, time and place over violence and gore,

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken, from the newly christened distributor Alchemy, opens this Friday, March 6, in a limited release. 

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