Here’s the pitch: a movie based on a real 1973 bank robbery in Sweden, in which the hostages began to sympathize and identify with the crooks, thus giving birth to the phrase Stockholm Syndrome.
Here’s the alternative pitch: Ethan Hawke re-makes “Dog Day Afternoon,” but in Sweden instead of Brooklyn, and without the directorial finesse of Sidney Lumet.
Those two concepts are at odds in “Stockholm,” which gets neither of them right.
Hawke is fine (as always) as Lars, who walks into the biggest bank in the city, pulls out a gun, starts shooting at the ceiling to get attention, then lets almost everyone go. Only a couple of employees remain, including Bianca (Noomi Rapace), who seemingly falls for and sides with Lars. Is that because she’s attracted to him, or she just wants to get out of there and home to her children? We’re not sure, even when she pretends to be a corpse after Lars stages a fake killing to prove to the cops that he means business.
There’s no doubt that Hawke can project charisma and sexual charm, as he proved in “Before Sunrise” and its sequels with Julie Delpy. But in “Stockholm,” he and Rapace have an awkward chemistry at best.
In his scenes with her, Hawke plays Lars as a sensitive, quiet man who doesn’t want to hurt anyone. But in dealing with the authorities, he puts on a loud, brave façade to prove he’s serious and dangerous. He has a plan and an ulterior motive (which I won’t give away), but they only take him so far. Unfortunately, his Lars isn’t as good at panicky confidence as Sonny, the Al Pacino character in “Dog Day Afternoon,” because writer/director Robert Budreau couldn’t fine the right tone and balance for his lead character.
If you want a much better bank robbery movie, there are plenty of others I can recommend, from Spike Lee’s “Inside Man” to Howard Franklin’s “Quick Change” to Barry Levinson’s “Bandits.” Each of them is a lesson in crackling dialogue, real relationships, and top-notch performances — qualities lacking in “Stockholm.”
I couldn’t sympathize with the movie, so let’s call my rating Below Average Syndrome. I give it a 4 out of 10.