Written and Directed by Robert Budreau | 92 min
Stockholm is a stultifying experience at the movies due to the picture’s sheer lack of identity. Writer-director Budreau gave us a mediocre Chet Baker biopic, Born To Be Blue, and here he’s back with another bland, lifeless picture.
Stockholm introduction includes the tag line: “based on an absurd but true story.” That suggests we’re getting a comic retelling of real events. Just barely. Kaj Hansson (Ethan Hawke) is an American bank robber who in 1973 stormed into a Swedish bank and took hostages in an effort to free his buddy, Gunnar Sorensson (Mark Strong), from prison. But is Kaj actually Lars Nystrom, a dime-store crook who once did a job in the town Helsingborg? And is he actually American? (This is a movie where everyone speaks English with a slight Swedish accent, except for Hawke, so it’s hard to tell whether they’re all supposed to be speaking Swedish—the trope is tired, either way.)
There’s a mystery around his identity and why he’d hide it, but the film doesn’t really care to explore it. In the bank, Kaj/Lars gets friendly with a teller, Bianca (Noomi Rapace), a woman with two kids and an unhappy marriage, while the hold-up aggravates the local, incompetent police chief, Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl).
This is the origin of the condition we’ve all come to know as Stockholm Syndrome, and it’s a story worthy of a film. But Stockholm doesn’t know what to do with it. Does Kaj/Lars’ outrageous behaviour make it a comedy? Does the strained relationship between Kaj/Lars and Gunnar make it a Dog Day Afternoon-style drama? Was it really love between Bianca and Kaj/Lars, or just a psychological disorder brought on by stress and close quarters? The film fails to answer any of these questions. It doesn’t even have an opinion on the matter.
In straddling genres it doesn’t actually engage, it’s a comedy generating few laughs, a drama with little feeling, a thriller absent suspense, and a romance with no heat.