‘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.

Death Squad aka 2047: Sights of Death – What a Mess

Poster for Death Squad
Death Squad, aka 2047 Sights of Death, is a 2014 Italian film starring Danny Glover, Stephen Baldwin, Rutger Hauer, Darryl Hannah and Michael Madsen. Directed by Alessandro Capone (Hidden Love, Primetime Murder) IMDb classifies the film as action, science fiction and a thriller all mixed into one. In reality the movie is none of these genres. Death Squad is an unmitigated disaster from frame one; as Danny Glover’s character Sponge says at the end of the film, “What a mess.”

The plot may have to do with saving the world, although it is not clear just what the overall mission of Ryan Willburn (Baldwin) actually is. He is either supposed to collect a transmitter or information and the transmitter or possibly something else entirely. He crash lands in a contaminated area where he needs an anti radiation serum dose on a regular basis or he will hallucinate and die.

Once he crashes Willburn discovers a pile of bodies and a local alien girl. We know she is alien because she cannot talk, although she can write in English, and she has been painted purple…or burgundy. She also has two black dots on her forehead and chin. Tuag, played by newcomer Neva Leone, helps Ryan on his mission, whatever it is.

The villains of the piece are apparently supposed to be Rutger Hauer’s Colonel Asimov, his aide Major Anderson (Hannah) and Lobo (Madsen). With no real clear objective, it seems that they are just meant to threaten and then kill Willburn.

Editing of the film appears to have been done while under the influence of hallucinogens and the script apparently had no dialogue included as it seems that all the performers were making it up as they went along. Hauer’s lines definitely feel made up on the spot. For all intents and purposes Death Squad seems to be the first film shot with no real script or lines or direction.

Granted the movie has been given a science fiction setting, telling the audience that it is in 2047 and that world order has fallen apart and so on sorts this out. Danny Glover’s character sits scribbling in a notebook when he is not cursing and looking for data on antiquated computer monitors or talking to Willburn. At one point in the film he is writing down that “Charles Manson was right” and that viagra “was right.” Like everything else in the movie, Glover’s character is in a muddle.

The film’s action roams all over the place and has no coherency or direction. Each of the actors feel like they are in their own film. Of course Madsen plays the same face-pulling cigarette-smoking psycho version of his Kill Bill character, regardless of the role he is cast in. The actor seems to be performing in his own special movie regardless of what the script asks for.

Hannah, and Baldwin, both seem to be desperately trying to play their roles straight but with no support from anyone else in the cast. Unfortunately for Baldwin, it is hard to play it serious when having black shoe polish smeared on one’s face. Luckily for him it does magically disappear a short time later. Odd moments like this abound in Death Squad and they do not result in laughter just confusion.

In a nutshell, this film plods nonsensically along for 89 minutes with no resolution, no real story and obviously no real script. Somewhat amazingly, 2047: Sights of Death, or Death Squad, was released in Italian cinemas. For the rest of the world, the film is on Netflix and should be avoided at all costs. There is not one redeeming factor in this feature and one can only surmise that all the name actors in the film owed someone a huge favor.

0 out of 5 stars for being confusing, horrible and a waste of time.

Zatoichi (2003): Blind Masseuse Music

Zatoichi is a Japanese “anti-hero” popular in their culture. No less than 26 films have been made featuring Zatoichi and a long running television show which aired 100 episodes. Part of the Zatoichi legend is his ability to win at gambling as he can hear the dice. He also gives massages, plays music and sings, and practises acupuncture.

Zatoichi even got the Hollywood remake treatment in 1990. The 17th film in the series was remade with Rutger Hauer playing a blind swordsman. Titled Blind Fury, it wasn’t a bad film. I watched it before I had even heard of Zatoichi and thought at the time it was marvellous. Of course, I am a huge Rutger Hauer fan, so that may explain a lot.

Takeshi Kitano adapted the screenplay of his version of Zatoichi. He also directed and edited the film. Kitano’s version is musical. Not in the classic sense, you won’t find samurai suddenly bursting into song a la The Sound of Music. But the film itself is musical.

The rain makes a musical sound as it falls and drips off objects. The villagers working in the fields make a rhythmic noise as they collect vegetables and weed their plants. This pattern of music making does not over indulge or become obtrusive. It is noticeable mainly when there are scenes with no dialogue. Sound is amplified when, we the audience, hear things from Zatoichi’s point view, so to speak.

The battles (which Takeshi wanted to be choreographed as realistically as possible) where the blind man takes his sword cane out to fight, have sword slices and cuts that are louder than usual, as if we are hearing it as Zatoichi is. The blood was “overly” CG’d at Kitano’s request. He felt the audience needed a bit of relief from the brutal nature of the battles and the high body count.

Zatoichi discovers a small mountain village that is being ruled by a powerful yakuza gang. They moved into the village and killed the “legal” rich landowner who was the villager’s protector and employer. The gang bully and terrorize the small village. Then Zatoichi arrives and starts carving his way through the yakuza gang. The leaders of the gang employ a Ronin to be their body-guard.

Ronin were samuai without a leader. Their lord and master is either dead or has no need of their services. Ronin roamed the countryside selling their sword skills to the highest bidder. Takeshi Kitano wisely chose Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano to play the ronin Hattori Gennosuke. Asano has been described as the Japanese Johnny Depp. He is a versatile and brilliant actor who has made the cross to Hollywood, working on Thor, Battleship and Thor: The Dark World (due for release in 2013). Credited with 82 films as an actor and three films as a director, Asano is perhaps best known for his over-the-top S&M villain from Ichi the Killer.

Ronin vs Zatoichi


The fight between Zatoichi and Gennosuke is long, brutal and brilliant. It was also a nod to Asano’s role in Ichi the Killer, as Zatoichi is also referred to as “Ichi” in the series of films about the blind swordsman.

There is a sub-plot about two beautiful geisha (one of whom is a man) who play music and sing before they murder their rich clients. They are on a revenge mission as it was their family who were murdered by the yakuza gang who took over the village.

Beat Takeshi‘s Zatoichi is a big budget affair that at last count pulled in over 32 million dollars at the box office. It won the Silver Palm Award and Cannes and has done very well in the home rental department. The film features Takeshi’s low key and, sometimes, slapstick humour that is his trademark. One scene in particular sums up the humour of Beat Takeshi.

The village idiot (or simpleton) likes to dress up as a samurai warrior and “train.” This consists of running around his ramshackle shed of a house yelling at the top of his lungs. This if funny enough (as he does it through a good portion of the film) but add Zatoichi into the scene and it becomes hysterically funny. I won’t spoil the scene for you, just watch it and see.

The film looks beautiful and has Kitano’s stamp all over it. As he edits his own films, he puts his personal touch and rhythm to ease film he does. The colours are sumptuous and the lighting is spot on. The blood is all CG. As explained before, he wanted the blood to be very intrusive. In his words to the special effects department he wanted the blood to, “look like flowers blossoming across the screen.”

I have watched Takeshi Kitano’s Zatoichi repeatedly and find something new in it each time I view it. I would highly recommend that you watch it; if for no other reason than to enjoy Beat Takeshi’s version of this popular and classic Japanese character.

Zatoichi hearing the rain.