Film Review: “Stockholm” Is Worth a Brief Visit, If Not a Long Stay

Film poster: “Stockholm”

Stockholm (Robert Budreau, 2018) 2½ out of 4 stars. 

Based on the failed real-life 1973 bank robbery that led to the coining of the term “stockholm syndrome,” writer/director Robert Budreau’s Stockholm explores the strange psychological phenomenon of captives bonding with their captors. Or at least Budreau (Born to Be Blue) seems to want to do that, but gets a little lost along the way, focusing first on one narrative tone and then another, turning his film into a combination Dog Day Afternoonmeets Fargowithout the consistent charm of either. Still, with actors like Ethan Hawke (Juliet, Naked), Noomi Rapace (Prometheus) and Mark Strong (6 Days) along for the ride, there is plenty of good to go with the bad, and the bad isn’t all that bad, just dramatically flat.

Hawke plays lead robber Kai Hansson, an American-raised Swede who enters the swank Kreditbanken in downtown Stockholm, pulls out a machine gun and wreaks havoc. Right away, we sense something off in him, as he alternates between threats of violence towards the bank workers, strange moments of tenderness, and awkward, loud vocalizations of intent. He’s also a dead shot, disarming a police officer, who pulls a gun on him, with a single bullet. Beyond money, one of his demands is for famed, imprisoned fellow bank robber Gunnar Sorensson (Strong) to be released. Oh, and a Ford Mustang. By the time Sorensson arrives, Hansson has let all the hostages go except for two women, among them Bianca Lind (Rapace), to whom he seems to be developing an attraction. She’s married, with kids, her husband coming to the bank to check on her well-being, but no matter. Hansson is all in.

Though the names have been changed from those in the original heist, the details remain similar to what went down in 1973, tinged with Budreau’s inconsistent, increasingly melancholy comedy. Back then, everyone – including the hostages, once freed – was perplexed by the odd sympathies that developed among those in the bank. Here, Budreau leaves us equally baffled, offering few moments to help explain, or at least infer, why Hansson and Sorensson should so successfully seduce their charges. We just have to take it on faith.

Ethan Hawke and Noomi Rapace in STOCKHOLM ©Smith Global Media

More distressing, the pace of the proceedings, after the engagingly taut opener, lags at intervals, bringing us in and out of the story. When we’re present, it’s enjoyable, but when we’re absent, it’s hard to reconnect. The period recreation and production design are nicely done, and it’s well shot, but the movie never quite soars, cinematically, and never quite digs beneath the surface of the why, how and what of the affair. It starts with a bang and ends (quite literally, in fact) with a whisper. It has its moments, however, courtesy of its fine cast, which carry us through the disappointment. Stockholm is worth a brief visit, then, if not a long stay.

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About chrisreedfilm

Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is Associate Editor and film critic at filmfestivaltoday.com; lead film critic at hammertonail.com, an online magazine devoted to independent cinema; the host of Dragon Digital Media’s award-winning "Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed"; a film commentator for the "Roughly Speaking” podcast with Dan Rodricks at "The Baltimore Sun"; and the author of "Film Editing: Theory and Practice." In addition, he is one of three co-creators, along with Summre Garber of Slamdance and Bart Weiss of Dallas VideoFest, of "The Fog of Truth" (fogoftruth.com) – available on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher – a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.
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