R, 92 mins.
2019, R, 92 mins.
Ethan Hawke as Kaj Hansson / Lars Nystrom / Noomi Rapace as Bianca Lind / Mark Strong as Gunnar Sorensson / Christopher Heyerdahl as Chief Mattsson / Bea Santos as Klara Mardh / Thorbjørn Harr as Christopher Lind / Mark Rendall as Elov Eriksson / Ian Matthews as Detective Vinter
Written and directed by Robert Budreau
The new fact based crime drama STOCKHOLM takes its name from, yes, the Swedish city, but the film is also based on a 1974 Daniel Lang New Yorker article that concerned a real-life bank robbery and hostage situation that occurred at a major bank in the city.
Taking place at
Norrmalmstorg square in Stockholm in 1973, this well publicized incident -
one of the first criminal events to be broadcast on live TV in the nation
- helped coin the term "Stockholm Syndrome", which occurs when
the victims and hostages begin to psychologically form sympathies for
Obviously, such feelings should be considered pretty irrational,
seeing as it's the hostages themselves that have their very lives being
held in the balance as a result of the dangerous demands of those that
wave guns in their faces.
The robbery itself involved a convicted prisoner on leave named Jan-Erik Olsson holding up the bank in question, with his buddy in Clark Olaffson being brought to the bank by police as one of his demands, and the pair would later find ways to bond with their hostages. Five days later, the criminals surrendered, leaving Olsson sentenced to a decade behind bars (Olafsson was later acquitted). Of course, interest in this case grew in the aftermath, especially with those that wanted to take an educated deep dive into trying to understand why the hostages themselves felt so close to these petty crooks. STOCKHOLM tells the story of this robbery and its aftermath in the broadest of strokes, and aside from a solid and endlessly watchable lead performance by Ethan Hawke, there's simply no much meat on the bones to this film. It simply falters as a commentary piece on the nature of Stockholm Syndrome, not to mention that as far as fact based crime dramas go, the film is disappointingly bland and forgettable.
DOG DAY AFTERNOON
The film opens
with the title cards "based on an absurd, but true story," but
the overall execution of said story is mostly perfunctory and lacking in
genre busting stylistic freshness.
It begins with a loose canon crook named Lars (Hawke), who marches
into the aforementioned Stockholm bank in 1973 and proudly boasts that
he's "an outlaw" and is there to rob the institution
(considering his outlandish attire and beyond obvious phony wig, he looks
more silly and threatening).
He manages to take the scared employees as hostages at gunpoint,
one of which he starts to form an immediate connection to in Bianca (Noomi
It soon becomes clear that Lars doesn't want money, but rather the
freedom of his old pal Gunnar (Mark Strong), who's currently in prison.
The police chief (Christopher Heverdahl) acquiesces to Lars'
demands and indeed delivers Gunnar to the bank, but things begin to boil
over shortly after that when the bank robbing pair makes an ultimatum to
police that they wish to leave the bank with the hostages in tow.
The chief obviously will not allow this, leaving Lars and Gunnar in
a precarious place, mostly because they have begun to garner sympathy from
their victims and begin to realize that they might have to off one of them
to show the police that they're not to be trifled with.
STOCKHOLM modestly engaging is, as mentioned, Hawke's very presence in it,
and this role of the somewhat hapless thief allows the veteran actor to
immerse himself in this quirky, charismatic, and sometimes in way, way
over his head baddie.
It's a sly and tricky performance feat, mostly because Hawke has to
show this man as a undeniably reckless thief that nevertheless has a cagey
charm that makes him likeable to his captives.
If he were too aggressively hostile then audiences would have never
bought into the fact that the bank employees would form emotional ties to
him, but if played too silly and over the top then he would have come off
as an unbelievable buffoon.
Hawke finds an economical middle ground, evoking just the right
amount of manic vitality and wounded vulnerability to make this character
feel more fleshed out than what's on the page.
He's paired nicely with the always reliable Strong and, more
importantly, with Rapace, who's made a relative career out of playing
ultra strong willed and intensely independent female heroes (THE
GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and PROMETHEUS).
In STOCKHOLM she's definitely sidelined with a fairly stock woman
in crisis/victim role, but she nevertheless imparts in it some moments of
authentic and relatable pathos.
She occupies one of the film's best and most dramatically potent
moments when - while held at gunpoint - she tearfully gives her terrified
husband supper prep advice, seeing as she mostly likely won't make it home
that night to prepare the fish dinner.
But, man, this
film doesn't quite come together as compellingly as it desperately wants
the litany of hostage/robbery thrillers that have graced the silver screen
in the wake of this historical event - far too many to even mentally count
- this leaves the makers of STOCKHOLM working overtime to try to impart
some innovative freshness in the proceedings.
Regrettably, the film does very little to make this premise come
meaningfully alive, and more often than not it comes off with the
aesthetic plainness of something made for TV.
That leads to STOCKHOLM having very little lingering staying power
quickly after you've left the cinema.
Writer/director Robert Bedreau does assemble a fine group of actors
whom all do uniformly stellar work here, but his scripting lacks nuance
and embellishment about the historical particulars on top of failing to
make this well worn genre material seem fresh and new.
STOCKHOLM should have been a thoroughly intoxicating examination of how
and why people find some way to sympathize with their violent aggressors.
For a film called STOCKHOLM that's based on a famous incident that
coined Stockholm Syndrome...it barely even scratches the surface as to why
this became a thing in the first place.
Strip the film of its history and setting and all we are
essentially left with is a dime-a-dozen hostage thriller driven on
Clearly, there's been a lot of fictionalizing of the real
particulars of this case, which happens with many a film, but STOCKHOLM
seems awfully lazy with exploring the phenomenon and given viewers any
insights as to what it even thinks about the event in question.
Just what does Budreau think of the bank robbers in question,
especially Hawke's Lars?
Does he identify with them as much as his victims?
Does he feel that the attachment the bank employees forged with him
is ultimately misplaced and naive?
And what of the whole media fascination with this robbery during
the event and afterwards?
STOCKHOLM frustratingly never answers these questions.
STOCKHOLM is too empty minded for its own good, and especially considering the talent on board in front of the camera. And at a far too limited 90 minutes, Budreau is simply short changing himself when it comes to developing aspects of this "absurd" true story with any weight and consequences that he obviously wanted to impart on it going in. If you go into STOCKHOLM hoping to gain some keen understanding of the complexities of the relationship between criminals and their prey and what would convince the latter to look up to and respect the former...then...well...you'll leave this film feeling completely underwhelmed. I felt sort of hijacked by this film in terms of it squandering my time, and the imminently disposable STOCKHOLM is proof positive that you can marry a grade A cast and a juicy real world period narrative together and mostly fail to make it click together in any exciting manner.