DIRECTED BY: ROBERT BUDREAU/2019
Director Robert Budreau, who previously directed Ethan Hawke in the Chet Baker biopic, Born to be Blue, teams up with Hawke again in the film Stockholm. Based on the 1973 bank heist which led to the coining of the phrase “Stockholm Syndrome”, Stockholm seeks to give its own quirky take on the botched robbery and hostage situation that took place in Sweden. The film stars Hawke (The “Before” Trilogy, Juliet Naked), Noomi Repace (Dead Man Down, Prometheus), Mark Strong (Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Imitation Game), and Christopher Heyerdahl (Sicario: Day of the Saldado).
Ethan Hawke plays Kaj Hansson, a middle-aged man who we see for the first time as he dons a long-haired wig along with a black leather jacket sporting a giant flag of the Great State of Texas, and proceeded to walk into Sweden’s largest bank. It is here that he pulls out a gun and orders everyone out except a couple of bank employees named Bianca Lind (Repace), and Klara Mardh (Bea Santos-True Detective). Later they pick up a straggler who is hiding in the bank, as Kaj (an alias) demands that the police chief (Heyerdahl) release his former partner and cellmate, Gunner Sorensson (Strong). When the chief gives in to this demand rather quickly, delivering Sorensson to Lars Nystrom, the real identity of Hawke’s character, it sets in motion the more difficult task of not just robbing the bank….but how to get out.
Stockholm has a humorous undertone running through it all, but it is more meant to be a dark comedy which will be hit or miss with many audiences. Robert Budreau delivered a strong film with Born to Be Blue, but here his choices seem to indicate an unsureness in terms of what direction he wanted this film to take. Despite having multiple angles to pursue that would have made this an infinitely better film, he sort of meanders somewhere in the middle of all of the possibilities without committing to any one particular one. As a result, the film seems to be stuck in place throughout the running time as the characters invoke the coolness of the escape in films like Bullitt, or The Getaway, without ever really getting to have a truly memorable ending of its own.
Hawke is great in this role, in spite of above criticism. He knows how to embody this character with the right amount of over-the-top rants, and subtle touches it needs. One minute he is shouting at Bianca about why she set off the bank alarm, while also trying to reassure her that all will be well and that he is glad she did. His passion for Texas and musical outlaws, here it is his like of Bob Dylan, run front and center of his character, much like in Hawke’s work such as when he directed the fantastic film Blaze in 2018, or in his work with Richard Linklater like the Before Trilogy, or Boyhood.
Noomi Repace anchors it all with a great presence and calmness that grounds the more absurd aspects of this robbery. She also has a great chemistry with Hawke as their characters are polar opposites in many ways. Given that this robbery, as it really happened, inspired the term “Stockholm Syndrome”, it isn’t much of a stretch to see that Hawke and Repace’s characters are going to need to bond, even if the fictional story we are watching is only based on true events, as this is one aspect of the real events that are going to be a thread throughout the run time.
The film has some great moments that could have been explored more as it pertains to the Police Chief and his desire to upstage Nystrom and Sorensson who are making him look bad at every turn. While we get some good tension built as each side escalates the stakes, it seems that the tension is deflated before it can truly explode into the powder keg it seems like it is going to be. The same is true as it relates to the ever-deteriating friendship between Sorensson and Nystrom. There are moments where it gets interesting as each begin to reveal different motivations and goals to this whole situation, but the film abruptly ends whatever it seems to be building. Fortunately, Stockholm has Hawke and Repace to fall back to.
Stockholm is entertaining enough at a base level, but not satisfying enough on the whole. Despite being based on an event that lead to a whole study in the field of Psychology, Stockholm seems to avoid most of the psychological aspects of the case that made it so interesting to begin with. Whatever good that comes out of viewing it can be directly attributed to the cast elevating the script and direction, particularly Ethan and Noomi’s contributions. Stockholm opens in limited release this weekend.