Thursday, 3 December 2015

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken (2015) - Movie Review
One of the main pledges I made when it comes to what gets watched/reviewed on this blog, aside from anything new I watch that was released from 2012-onwards gets reviewed without question, is that I watch everyone that gets released at my local. For the sake of sincerity, this would be the Hoyts cinema in Westfield Warringah, a place I have probably more time in than I ever did at school. Given the frequent grammar/spelling errors in these reviews, it shows. However, at some point down the road earlier in the year, I became slack. There was a string of new releases that, out of laziness, I didn’t end up checking out before they stop screening.  As we approach the end of the year and I am doing my usual round-up of the films I didn’t get a chance to check out before, it would only be logical to right old wrongs and get to those films I missed. However, given both the exceptionally brief cinematic run it had coupled with the woeful approval ratings it has garnered, maybe this was one of those that I should be glad that I missed first time around.

The plot: Small-time Dutch crooks Cor (Jim Sturgess), Willem (Sam Worthington), Cat (Ryan Kwanten), Brakes (Thomas Cocquerel) and Spikes (Mark Van Eeuwen) are tired of their standards of living so, in an effort to get some fast money, they plot to kidnap beer tycoon Freddy Heineken (Anthony Hopkins). However, as the ransom payment takes longer and longer to be made, they start to question if they can stick it out for the long haul, even if the money could get them out of their current circumstances.

The acting is pretty decent, even considering the slipshod casting that features British and Australian actors portraying Dutch characters. However, their acting isn’t suitable for this kind of story, as everyone save for Heineken’s chauffeur (David Dencik) reacts way too calmly to everything going on around them. Hopkins acts like he’s doing a reality show on dodgy hotels with how he mildly reacts to the conditions of his cell, as if he heard he was going to be spending most of the film in a cell and decided to bring back his Hannibal Lector performance despite the actual tone of the film. As for our mains, Worthington gets some moments of rage but quickly regresses into wimp personified in record time, and Sturgess is given the most character motivation for the heist but never ends up acting on any of it. Other than that, none of the other actors stand out enough to be worthy of singling out.

This might be the least gritty crime thriller I’ve seen in quite some time. Everything about it just feels so clinical which, since it features two people being kept prisoner in sound-proofed cells for weeks on end, most definitely shouldn’t be the case. Everyone is way too blasé about the situation and the motivations for doing so are thinly portrayed at best. We get a mild sense of crime driven by poverty, through their differing encounters with the local bank, but the actual crime itself is treated with the least urgency possible. This doesn’t help by how the characters are written or, rather, aren’t written since they just fulfil roles without any real nuance to them: Cor is the leader, Willem is the muscle, Brakes is the naïve kid, and the other two are the other two. The only potentially decent idea is how Heineken and Brakes start bonding during his captivity. But even then, all it results in is Hopkins reminding audiences of his performance in a far better film. Maybe if they didn’t go with the decision to have Brakes be mainly silent whenever they interacted, this could’ve resulted in something interesting. Then again, the fact that they didn’t is just a side-effect of the film’s biggest problem: The pacing.

This is rushed beyond all reasonable doubt. The set-up for the kidnapping itself is minuscule, with the rationale for the whos and whys barely being established. Now, this would be understandable under regular circumstances: Chances are that the filmmakers wanted to get the preliminaries out of the way so that they could focus on the kidnapping itself and the supposed conflict the characters go through during that time. Well, that fails rather badly when both the kidnapping and the aftermath are dealt with in a fashion where all the true-to-life details are being adhered to, but without any of the drama or emotion that makes what’s happening interesting or investing. It’s kind of baffling to understand why people still write with this mindset, but it bears repeating: If you half-arse it when it comes to connecting the audience to the characters that we are clearly meant to sympathise with, don’t be surprised if our whole-arses don’t stay in our seats for the running time.

All in all, this is just yet another boiler-plate crime thriller that is way too focused on the events and not on the people that they affect. The acting is perfectly fine, and of course Hopkins is great, but their characters are bland and nigh-uncaring in their approach to their given scenarios, the writing is bare bones and the pacing feels like the filmmakers got equally bored with the main premise and just wanted to get it over and done with. Considering director Daniel Alfredson made two pretty good Dutch crime films with the follow-ups to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (the original, not the Fincher version), maybe his salvos have dried up after that colossal effort and he’s just running on fumes. Might explain why he hadn’t made a film since then until now.

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