Stockholm (2019)
Stockholm (2019)

Genre: Crime Comedy and Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: April 12th, 2019 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Robert Budreau Actors: Ethan Hawke, Mark Strong, Noomi Rapace, Christopher Heyerdahl, Bea Santos, Thorbjorn Harr, Mark Rendall, John Ralston, Shanti Roney, Hanneke Talbot




tockholm Syndrome – where a kidnap or hostage victim becomes psychologically manipulated into aiding or sympathizing with the criminal – was coined due to the events in this film, which are, as the picture specifically denotes, based on an absurd but true story (the first televised hostage crisis in the country). In Stockholm, Sweden, in 1973, Kaj Hansson (Ethan Hawke) takes a cab and then strolls into the Kreditbanken, clad with an “Easy Rider” sort of costume. Out of his duffel bag he unfurls a semiautomatic machine gun, starts firing into the air, and turns on a radio – so that he’ll have his own personal soundtrack for the ensuing bank robbery.

Kaj is presumed to be an American, perhaps largely due to his cowboy hat, scraggly long hair, leather jacket with the Alamo Flag on it, and his insistence on being called “The Outlaw.” His behavior is odd, wry, and unexpectedly psychotic, as he laughs, shouts, and holds conversations with his hostages, alternately terrorizing and consoling them. His demands include $1 million U.S. dollars, unmarked, along with the release and delivery of Gunnar Sorensson (Mark Strong), an imprisoned murderer and thief – all by 3:30 PM. If the bank manager and the chief of police are unable to accommodate these requests, top employee Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace) will be executed. And his other hostages, including Klara Mardh (Bea Santos) and Elov Eriksson (Mark Rendall), presumably also have their lives at stake.

Hansson’s actions are scary, but also bizarrely playful; it’s as if he’s not entirely serious about his bank-robbing profession. Everything he knows about the hostile endeavor seems to be inspired by movies. He asks for a getaway Mustang to match the one driven by Steve McQueen in “Bullitt,” and he refers to his collaboration with Gunnar as one akin to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As the scenario shifts and deteriorates, the details grow weirder – and intermittently more comical. “In case you haven’t noticed, your wife’s a fox,” insists Kaj when he refuses to swap hostages; and moments later, as Bianca weighs the likelihood of returning home to her family alive, she sends her husband away with cooking instructions for the herring in the fridge, which is to be dinner for their children. Plus, as the robbers wait for the Prime Minister (Shanti Roney) to make a move, they reminisce about the old days and Gunnar’s skills with a guitar, and eventually start singing together.

“How was the fish?” “They had meatloaf.” As a historical recreation of the 5-day crucible (here, feeling as if maybe 3 days long), “Stockholm” provides plenty of education surrounding the actual events, as well as a hearty helping of amusement in the fabricated dramatization of its charismatic villains and their unusual conduct. Despite these frequently fictitious circumstances (which soon reveal that the authorities may not even know the true identity of the primary robber; curiously, virtually every name has been changed) and somewhat insincere maneuvers by all, there’s a bit of genuine suspense in the showdown, and unexpected humor (and infuriation) in everything from conversations to brotherly bickering to imbecilic mistakes, most prominent when people (both the crooks and the various men in charge) make dreadfully rash decisions – such as verbally poking fun at the culprits or creating ludicrous stalling tactics. The cast, whose performances are excellent, aid in preventing the many inventions from appearing too unreal.

Due to the politics involved (at the bank level as well as the national level), the notion of the victims adopting a sense of trust and cooperation with their captors doesn’t feel like complex brainwashing or some unintentional, twisted self-betrayal. Instead, it’s reasonable; in a bid for survival, it’s entirely plausible that victims could act as accomplices to increase – or altogether ensure – their own safety. Additionally, distrusting police and government forces is a wholly understandable mindset.

Unfortunately, “Stockholm” opens with a sequence that is a terrible misstep, giving away a crucial plot point. Although many audiences might know a thing or two about this famous robbery, they aren’t likely to be aware of the intricacies, which means that any premature revelations become outrageously poor decisions. But, to its credit, “Stockholm” is one of those films that is absorbing enough to push viewers to read up on the source material (to which an abundance of embellishments were added and significant changes made) – a larger-than-life ordeal as fascinating as it is outlandish.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10