‘Kidnapping Mr. Heineken’ a Record Breaking Ransom Story

Film Poster for Kidnapping Mr. Heineken
Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is the story behind the record breaking ransom asked and paid for Freddy Heineken to be released in 1983. Based upon the true story, this film is the second telling of the event, the first being the 2011 film The Heineken Kidnapping starring Rutger Hauer as the billionaire beer magnate. The first film was a Dutch production and it admitted to being a “fictionalized” version of the real abduction of Heineken and his driver.

Both films are based upon Dutch reporter Ken R. de Vries’ version of events who wrote about the crime based on interviews with the two leaders behind the kidnapping. Interestingly, Willem Holleeder, who was second in command to Cor van Hout, tried to have the Dutch film banned from cinemas and failed. Reporter de Vries has publicly denounced both the versions of the film, the one in 2011 and the most recent 2014 movie, saying that things have been portrayed inaccurately.

The story is set in 1983 and tells of a group of friends who need money decide to kidnap Freddy Heineken. In reality, if an informant had not called the police and tipped them off to Cor and Willem, along with the rest of the group, there is a good chance they would never have been caught. The film would have had a completely different ending or perhaps never have been made.

Directed by Daniel Alfredson (Wolf, Echoes of the Dead) the film stars Anthony Hopkins as Heineken, Sam Worthington as Willem Holleeder and Jim Sturgess as Cor van Hout. The rest of the cast do a good job in their respective roles and feature actors from Holland and from France.

A couple of things about the film stand out, leaving out the odd mistake here and there such as the color of the Heineken bottles in 1983 being incorrect and Heineken dying in 2003 rather than 2002. Firstly, Hopkins, with his wispy white hair and stubble, resembles the late actor Klaus Kinski more than he does the real life Heineken. Secondly, filming took place in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and it helps with the overall authenticity of the action and for anyone who has lived there it offers a sense of familiarity.

The plot, based upon the real events as related to de Vries, follows what went into the kidnapping which resulted in the record breaking ransom request of 35 million Guilders, back before the currency was replaced by the Euro. It also shows how the friends fell out after arguing over just about everything once the object of the abduction was caught and being held against his will.

These disagreements carried over into the receipt of the money and ended with the gang going their separate ways and, as stated just before the closing credits, never got together again. Hopkins, as Heineken tells one of the men that one can either be successfully monetarily in life or have lots of friend, but never both. The film seems to prove his homily to be true.

According to the film, a good portion of the ransom was never recovered. One thing not mentioned, but alluded to, is that prison sentences in Holland tend to be pretty light compared to other countries. Frans “Spikes” Meijer, played by Mark van Eeuwen (Rendez-Vouz, Finn) pleaded insanity as was sentenced to incarceration in a psychiatric hospital where he easily escaped.

The closing message also states that a good portion of the money was never recovered and that the two “leaders;” van Hout and Holleeder, went on to become the “godfathers” of The Netherlands until the former was assassinated in 2003. Regardless of the true facts and how close the film did or did not portray them, the movie is a fascinating look at how the criminals fell apart after committing the most infamous caper in the world.

A good solid “based on a true story” film with capable performances from all concerned and extremely entertaining. 3.5 out of 5 stars with a drop due to the inaccuracies in the film and the fact that Hopkins did look more like Kinski than Heineken. Steaming on US Netflix and worth a look.

Stonehearst Asylum (2014) Old Fashioned Gothic Romance Story

Stonehearst Asylum Film Poster
Directed by Brad Anderson (The Call, Transsiberian) and adapted for the screen by Joe Gangemi (Wind Chill, Inamorata) from an Edgar Allen Poe short story (The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether) Stonehearst Asylum stars Kate Beckinsale (Underworld, Total Recall), Jim Sturgess (Cloud Atlas, Ashes), David Thewlis (Macbeth, The Theory of Everything) along with Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley as well as some of England’s finest character actors like Jason Flemyng and Sinead Cusak. Set in 1899 just as the world is slipping into the 1900s; Beckinsale plays Lady Eliza Graves, a woman driven mad by her brutish husbands sexual demands on their wedding night.

This is the reason given for her incarceration, but in reality, she attacks her husband with a comb and puts out one of his eyes when he attempts to force her into sodomy.

A doctor known as an Alienist, played by Brendan Gleeson (28 Days Later, Safe House) parades Graves at a medical lecture where he induces her to have a fit by touching her “inappropriately.” Later, a young Alienist, Dr. Newgate, comes to Stonehearst Asylum to become the latest member of staff in the madhouse. The stone structure is out in the middle of nowhere and the first person the young doctor meets is Mickey Finn (Thewlis) who is disturbing to say the least.

Once inside, Newgate meets the Asylum head, Dr. Lamb (Kingsley) and learns that the doctor does not give drugs to the incarcerated patients and practices new and unusual treatments. The new doctor meets Lady Graves and later finds that Lamb and Finn are actually patients who overpowered the real staff and taken over. Dr. Salt (Michael Caine) and the remainder of the asylum’s professional care takers have been locked in cages in the building’s basement.

The look and feel of this 2014 film is a mixture of mystery, thriller and a good old fashioned romantic Gothic love story. Enough of the real inhuman treatments of the clinically insane are featured in the film and this marks the second time that Kingsley and Caine have worked together, the first being their Holmes and Watson double act in the 1988 film Without a Clue.

The sets and the lighting combine to create what looks to be a perfect recreation of the back end of the Victorian Era. Cinematographer Tom Yatsko (Gotham, The Day After Tomorrow) pulls out all the stops to make this film moody, atmospheric and Victorian. The only anachronism is the reference to slipping someone a Mickey Finn before the phrase became well known, as the setting is just prior to 1900 and the saying did not become popular until 1915 according to Wikipedia.

All the actors deliver brilliant performances. David Thewlis, who repeatedly plays roles so full of menace, does not disappoint as the mad lady-killer and Sturgess gives a wonderful turn as the love struck medico. Sir Ben Kingsley shows once again why he is an award winning actor and Michael Caine does the same. Beckinsale is appropriately stressed as the woman who freaks at a too-familiar touch and Brendan Gleeson is seen far too little.

A little nepotism is apparent in the casting, although not a lot as he does not appear until towards the end of the film, as Kingsley’s son Edmund plays the role of Sir Charles Graves, Beckinsale’s brutish screen husband whose sexual tastes drives her into the madhouse.

For anyone who adores British cinema (And who does not?) this is a 5 star film. Despite being set, very loosely, on a Poe short story, the movie feels as English as London fog. Streaming on US Netflix it is worth the time spent to watch it. Pop yourself some corn, grab a glass of fizzy and enjoy.

1 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith