21 Days: The Heineken Kidnapping Review

Rutger Hauer switches Guinness for Heineken.

Rutger Hauer, the man who once advertised Guinness for the best part of a decade, here switches allegiance to portray Freddy Heineken. In 1983 the president of the self-named brewing company was kidnapped along with his driver, Ab Doderer, and held to a ransom of 35 million Dutch guilders. Four men carried out the act, which saw Heineken and Doderer kept in separate confinement for a total of 21 days. The events surrounding the kidnapping – both its build-up and the aftermath – form the basis of Dutch thriller De Heineken ontvoering or 21 Days: The Heineken Kidnapping as it has been renamed for this UK DVD and Blu-ray release.

An opening disclaimer is keen to point out that “fact and fiction have been blended together”. With the exception of Heineken, character names have been changed though this still prompted some controversy. Willem Holleeder, who is currently serving a separate prison term, attempted to get an injunction against 21 Days: The Heineken Kidnapping as he feared it would damage his reputation. He insists that the film portrays him and his fellow kidnappers as significantly more violent than was actually the case and, as such, will affect his standing in society once his sentence is up. Director and co-writer Maarten Treurniet shrugged off the claims, insisting that the damage was done when Holleeder carried out the kidnapping: “This is peanuts by comparison.”

Despite the fictionalisation and Holleeder’s protestations of excessive violence, 21 Days: The Heineken Kidnapping proves itself to be a curiously flat affair. Alongside the occasional big screen outing, Treurniet has worked primarily in commercials and television during his career and it’s the latter which is channelled here. His film feels like a TV movie, albeit one presented in ’scope, complete with synthetic early eighties re-enactment that appears entirely untouched as though it’s never been lived-in. Director of photography Giulio Biccari (whose credits include Spooks, Luther and My Mad Fat Diary) shoots everything in the same slightly overlit fashion, free of nuance and a sense of texture. This isn’t Amsterdam, 1983 but a cheap and artificial approximation; even the location footage looks as though it were shot on a set.

This lack of nuance extends to all corners, with only Hauer (despite looking a tad bored) escaping its clutches. In narrative terms the emphasis is placed on tensions within the quartet of kidnappers that are apparent from the start. Introducing a romantic triangle element only succeeds in adding to the predictability of it all. There are areas of interest to be had – the youngest of gang is acting partially in revenge as his terminally-ill father succumbed to alcoholism whilst travelling from pub-to-pub as an agent for Heineken – but these have a tendency to get ignored as Treurniet and co-writer Kees van Biejnum instead focus on the more obvious (and therefore much less enticing) plot elements. Under such circumstances it’s hard to muster up any real enthusiasm.


21 Days: The Heineken Kidnapping comes to the UK DVD and Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Films. A Blu-ray was supplied for review purposes, so it is this edition considered below.

For all the flatness of the cinematography, there can be no denying that the Blu-ray does a very good job of faithfully recreating it on disc. The original aspect ratio is adhered to, the image is expectedly pristine and the level of clarity superb. Some of the darker moments do reveals some signs of compression, plus it should be noted that the English subtitles have been burnt into the picture. These two black marks aside, a fine presentation. The soundtrack, meanwhile, is available in both LPCM stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 options and presents no problems. The sole extras is a trailer.

Anthony Nield

Updated: Mar 30, 2013

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