Skipping along to a series of ominous synth basslines seemingly sourced from some bottomless vat of all-purpose genre music, Daniel Alfredson’s Kidnapping Mr. Heineken works its way dutifully through the facts of its scenario—multimillionaire head of the piss-poor beer conglomerate falls victim to one of the most infamous criminal cases in recent Netherlands history—as if proposing a comprehensive history. There’s the ragtag bunch of ex-cons turned family men: reckless ringleader Cor Van Hout (Jim Sturgess), who we’re informed has a baby on the way seemingly only to raise the stakes for the character; comparatively cautious right-hand man Willem Holleeder (Sam Worthington); featureless Jan “Cat” Boellard (Ryan Kwanten); and a host of other usual suspects who they involve in their plan. Growing restless after a short-lived period of trying to go straight, Cor picks a moonlit outing on the Amstel River to enlighten his buddies of his most ambitious stunt yet: the kidnapping of filthy-rich Freddy Heineken (Anthony Hopkins) in hopes of retrieving a hefty ransom, an idea offered up in an impromptu anarchist pep talk that’s enough to reflexively stir everyone back into big-league crime. (For all the thematic emphasis the script ultimately places on the allegedly thick bonds among these men, it’s surprising how often they communicate solely through exposition.)
Before long, Heineken and an anonymous piece of human bait have been holed away in windowless, soundproof rooms, at which point the movie stops dead in its tracks—though, to put it more accurately, the undisciplined chop job that is the central kidnapping sequence does little to build momentum in the first place. Without committing to any particular narrative focus, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken devolves into something like an interminable newscast of the actual events, intercutting perfunctorily between the clumsily scheming captors, their confused loved ones back home, and the increasingly delirious prisoners. That Alfredson so casually trounces over any sense of character hesitation in the hurried build up to the crime makes the eventual obligatory stirrings of paranoia and guilt within the team of abductors wholly disingenuous, yet another example of the film relying on tropes that come instinctively with the genre outfit rather than exploring actual human emotions.
It’s no surprise, then, that a film so tediously built on going through the motions would follow through in identical fashion. Hopkins’s only feature moment as the titular entrepreneur rests on a speech that cements Kidnapping Mr. Heineken as representing yet another crime-doesn’t-pay tract: “You can only have friends or money in this world, not both.” Simultaneously a stupefyingly banal summary of the film’s message and its fundamental thematic scaffolding (Alfredson even reprises Heineken’s words before the end credits), we can only assume, sadly, that this is the kernel of urban wisdom that made Kidnapping Mr. Heineken pull ahead in the pitch room.