“Stockholm” begins by informing us it is “based on an absurd but true story”. Truer words have never been spoken. This off-beat movie from writer-director Robert Budreau is one part heist film, one part black comedy and all parts utter absurdity. I think that’s why I liked it as much as I did.
The film is set in 1973 Stockholm, Sweden and is based on an article written by Daniel Lan for the New Yorker magazine. It tells of a bank heist where the hostages begin to sympathize and side with their captors giving rise to the condition known as Stockholm Syndrome.
Ethan Hawke adds yet another fresh and fun role to his resumé. He plays a rather doltish American named Lars who we first see arming himself with a submachine gun, a really bad wig, and an even worse jacket. He then moseys into a Stockholm bank for what looks like your prototypical stick-em-up. But we immediately begin noticing Lars isn’t your ordinary robber and he has more things on his mind other than money.
Enter the canny yet hilariously reckless Police Chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl) who immediately pulls out the hostage situation playbook. He starts by contacting Lars and getting his list of demands. They include $1 million and for his best friend and former cellmate Gunnar (Mark Strong) to be brought to the bank. Oh, and “a Mustang 302 like Steve McQueen had in Bullit” (actually McQueen drove a 390 V8 Mustang GT but Lars isn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer).
Inside the bank Lars takes a liking to cashier Bianca (Noomi Rapace) and the whole Stockholm Syndrome link is made. But don’t expect the movie to explore that link too deeply. Budreau isn’t that interested in the psychology. Instead he embraces the nuttiness of his story and gives the hilarious Hawke and subtly funny Strong some pretty good material to play around with. Plus, there are a handful of cheeky gags about the police and the media that land really well.
“Stockholm” ends up being a fairly light indie comedy that could probably dig a little deeper into its story and characters but seems perfectly content to just have fun. To be honest, that’s one of the things I like about it. It’s a breezy and often silly heist flick that is completely comfortable with itself. And Ethan Hawke continues his extraordinary run of solid and surprisingly varied performances.