Anybody wondering where the phrase “Stockholm syndrome” originated, much less what it means (hostages who come to sympathize with their captors), will find the energetic, darkly amusing “Stockholm,” based on a real-life, 1973 Swedish bank heist-hostage crisis, an enlightening, lively, perhaps not unfamiliar outing. (The latter may be because it resembles a kind of “Dog Day Afternoon”-lite.)
Ethan Hawke, who’s once again first-rate, stars as Sweden-born, Texas-raised petty criminal Lars Nystrom. Armed with a machine gun, a hair-trigger attitude and clumsy charisma, he storms Stockholm’s Kreditbanken demanding a million U.S. dollars and the release of ex-crime buddy, cellmate and mentor Gunnar Sorensson (Mark Strong) from a local prison — plus a getaway car like Steve McQueen drove in “Bullitt.”
To insure this, the Bob Dylan-loving Lars takes several bank employees hostage, including bespectacled wife and mother Bianca (Noomi Rapace, also fine), who finds herself drawn to the increasingly hapless crook as he faces off against a willful police chief (Christopher Heyerdahl) and the Swedish prime minister (Shanti Roney) over the course of a few harried, surprise-strewn, bungling days.
Writer-director Robert Budreau, Hawke’s collaborator on the 2015 Chet Baker biopic “Born to Be Blue,” keeps the largely contained action moving apace, particularly in the film’s twisty third act. Still, one wishes Bianca’s character was more deeply explored to better grasp her pivotal susceptibility to Lars.
Rated: R, for language and brief violence
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Starts April 19, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena