“Stockholm” is a curiously constructed film.
While well-acted, it never fully commits to a tone. As a hostage drama it lacks true tension. As a comedy it goes light on playing its situations for laughs.
Also, the film aims for black comedy and social commentary, but there’s not enough context for most viewers to fully embrace the film maker’s implicit message.
As a result, it falls short of its considerable potential.
What’s it about?
Billed as “based on an absurd but true story”, “Stockholm” draws inspiration from a 1973 bank-robbery-turned-hostage-crisis that became one of Sweden’s most well known and studied international crime cases.
The film changes most of the names of the real-life people involved. Here, a Swedish-born, American-raised ex-convict (Ethan Hawke) walks into a bank, pulls a machine gun from his bag, fires a number of rounds into the air and takes over the bank lobby.
He lets the bank patrons leave, but holds on to a few hostages, including bank official Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo“). When the city’s police chief arrives at the scene, the convict demands the release of another bank robber, Gunnar Sorrenson (Mark Strong, “Shazam!“).
Puzzled by both the bank robber’s identity and demands, the police acquiesce and bring Sorrenson. They stop short, however, of letting him leave with Sorrenson, his hostages, and $1 million U.S. dollars, setting the stage for a prolonged standoff and siege.
As the international media gathers outside the bank and the police make their plans to end the standoff, what happens next inside the bank between the hostage taker and his prisoners will later spawn decades of study and give birth to a term well known in today’s pop culture: “Stockholm Syndrome.”
Writer/director Robert Budreau takes the story of the Norrmalmstorg Robbery and fictionalizes it so he can focus on just how the bond develops between the captors and captives.
However, while his script is efficient, it leaves out much-needed context. While often crime dramas suffer from bloat due to excessive set-up, this is one case where a little more time to show who these people are and how they’re living before the film’s featured events change their lives might have helped a great deal.
Also, audiences may soon pick up on the fact that there may be additional external reasons why these hostages, Rapace’s Lind in particular, might be more inclined to trust criminals over the city’s police. These people know something about their public servants that most viewers won’t. As such, their actions come off as a little absurd for the wrong reasons.
That said, fans of the talent involved here may find enough to enjoy in “Stockholm” to overlook some faults.
Hawke delivers some fun moments going back-and-forth between would-be hardened criminal and earnest, caring captor. Rapace, meanwhile, mesmerizes as Lind — she convincingly projects the quiet strength in her that the film’s other characters see and comment on throughout.
But the film’s reluctance to either go full-on satire or fully committed crime drama holds it back from being memorable as a whole.
Starring Ethan Hawke, Noomi Rapace, and Mark Strong. Directed by Robert Budreau.
Running time: 92 minutes
Rated R for language and brief violence.