Tuesday, September 4, 2012

PiFan 2012: The Heineken Kidnapping (De Heineken ontvoering, Holland) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 16th Puchon International Film Festival.

Rutger Hauer’s heyday may have come before my time but as a film lover it still feels as though I grew up with him. My teenage years were spent awash in the dream of cinema and amidst the blur of it all, some films stood out. Among them was Blade Runner (1982) which, I must admit, was a film that I did not immediately warm to but the villain of the piece has stayed with me for the decade since I first I saw it. Horror may not have featured prominently in my cinema diet but I’ll never forget The Hitcher (1986), a film that could easily have been unremarkable were it not for the terrifying presence of its antagonist.

With his pellucid blue eyes, wavy blond hair and harsh features, Hauer has always been a formidable presence on screen. However, more than his physiognomy, it is of course his talent and intensity as a performer that has made him so memorable. He seems to lose himself in his best roles. I hesitate to say that he was a method actor, a term that is ill-suited to genre cinema, but he throws himself so fully into his marginalized characters that he often seems to be in a trance.

A Dutch film starring Hauer as a beer tycoon out for revenge against the low-rent criminals who kidnapped him and locked him in a cell for three weeks, The Heineken Kidnapping has all the ingredients to make a stellar thriller. I’m sad to say that it does not quite reach its potential. Regardless it is still a strong feature which, while not terribly original, is well-staged and features a strong performance from Hauer.

A young man in Amsterdam goes to his brother-in-law with a target for him and his crew of kidnappers: the CEO of the Heineken corporation. They successfully apprehend him and keep him under lock and key for three weeks until the ransom is paid but now the CEO is hellbent on revenge and is not shy about using the ample resources at his disposal.

The problem is that the filmmakers chose to focus on the young kidnapper who is at first charming but quickly turns out to be a sadist. His penchant for violence is off-putting and while his portrayal and that of his associates may be realistic, it causes a narrative problem as we have no one to root for save for the CEO. As expected, in that role, Hauer is strong. He delivers a nuanced performance even though the character is a little underwritten.

The Heineken Kidnapping is a diverting thriller that employs an earthy and caustic style similar to 2010’s brilliant Carlos but, due to some sloppy characterization and uneven plotting, it seems like a missed opportunity.


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