Movie Review: Ethan Hawke-starring ‘STOCKHOLM’ leaves you captured by promise, held hostage by its results

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James C. Clay // Film Critic

STOCKHOLM

Rated R, 92 minutes.
Director: Robert Budreau
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Noomi Rapace, Mark Strong, Christopher Heyerdahl

Have you ever wanted an origin story to a famous psychological study? Well if you’re a fan of “Stockholm syndrome” —where a hostage bonds with their captor–then the comedy crime caper STOCKHOLM is the film for you! Despite a glossy shine to the production and an amazing cast including the great one. Ethan Hawke, Noomi Rapace, and an underutilized Mark Strong, the film is largely underdeveloped and often quite dull. Director Robert Budreau (BORN TO BE BLUE) focuses on the absurdity of the situation rather than the psychological ramifications of this whole stranger than fiction story.

STOCKHOLM takes place in 1973 in Sweden as a Lars Nystrom (Hawke), a bumbling criminal holds 4 captives hostage including banker Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace), who develops a fondness to Nystrom during the 5 day ordeal (and who could blame somebody for swooning over Ethan Hawke). Immediately Nystom demands hostage negotiator Chief Mattsson (a smooth Christopher Heyerdal) to free his old buddy Gunnar Sorrensson (Mark Strong) from prison, or he will start his own murder party in the illustrious bank. Sounds interesting? Well there’s intrigue riddled throughout with just enough to hold your attention, but the script leaves a lot to be desired. 

The cast of this film has a wealth of talent starring one of the world’s best actors. Ethan Hawke is always the spice to any movie he is apart of, without fail he can change the tone of a film and have it morph into his orbit, he’s a real storyteller. Without fail if he’s part of project ears will perk up, in a time when we are so divided Hawke appeals to both the blue-collar American and the Broadway theater-goers. Budreau, who teamed with Hawke on his meaty Chet Baker biopic BORN TO BE BLUE a few years ago has had a prosperous collaboration with the actor. With STOCKHOLM he teams the screen legend with some atypical screen partners, but cannot find the dynamics to make them worth-while. The film is essentially a three-hander between Hawke, Rapace, and Strong, and each of the latter actors feel a bit subdued and overwhelmed by Hawke’s performance. Its as if he plays Nystrom as a guy who has seen one too many counter-culture Dennis Hopper movies and got the wrong message. While the rest of the cast lays dormant, rather than matching his energy in dark and fascinating ways. 

Rapace is a wonderful actor who has provided audiences with powerful performances meant to gain empathy for her character. Stoicism can be a useful tool when showing an overwhelmed person, but in this case, it comes off as incredibly bland; there’s hardly any chemistry. Same goes for Strong, who has nothing to do for the majority of the film, Budreau doesn’t take the time to hash out the psychology and dynamics of his characters. This film calls appreciation towards Kyle Alvarez’ film THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT which dives deep into the psyche of people being manipulated by ludicrous circumstances, its a superb film that has the acting chops as well as the nuance.

STOCKHOLM is a wonderful looking film, but the style is a bit predictable and lacking. The cinematography by Brandon Steacy and production design by Aidan Leroux are eye-popping and have charm in a David O. Russell, AMERICAN HUSTLE sort of way. The aesthetic has an American western vibe mixed with a sleek European heist film, at times the looks polished and other seems a bit over-wrought.

Overall, this caper is a disappointment that leaves you captured by its promise and held hostage by the results.

Grade: C