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STOCKHOLM: 3 STARS. “Hawke is a hoot as the more nerve than brains instigator.”

We’ve all heard the term Stockholm Syndrome. It refers to a hostage situation in which the captees come to sympathize or even identify with their captors. We’ve seen it in films like “Dog Day Afternoon,” “V for Vendetta” and even “King Kong.” But why is it called Stockholm Syndrome? Director Robert Budreau found out when he stumbled across “The Bank Drama” by Daniel Lang, a 1974 New Yorker article about a 1973 Swedish bank heist and hostage crisis that gave name to the phenomenon.

Ethan Hawke plays Lars Nystrom, a Swedish national raised in America. When he steps inside one of Sweden’s main banks, the Kreditbanken, armed with a machine gun and some bad intentions, he’s disguised, resembling Dennis Hopper circa “Easy Rider.” Gun blazing he orders everyone out of the bank save for tellers Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace) and Klara Mardh (Bea Santos).

His plan is simple. He will hold the two women hostage until his best friend, legendary bank robber Gunnar Sorensson (Mark Strong), is released from jail, delivered to him and the two friends, with hostages in tow are allowed to leave in a Mustang GT. They’ll drive to a nearby dock, release Bianca and Klara, sail to France and never be seen again. If he doesn’t get what he wants he tells police he will kill the hostages and shoot his way out of the bank.

What the police don’t know is that Lars is all bluster, all talk and no walk. He’s never shot anyone and isn’t about to start now. Bianca, the more valuable of the hostages because she is a wife and a mom, senses Lars’s soft heart and begins to feel for his plight, even though he is the architect of their dire situation.

“Stockholm” has a bit of a damp fuse. The elements are all in place for a terrific thriller but they never gel. Hawke is a hoot as the more nerve than brains instigator and Rapace captures the compassion and desperation necessary for us to believe she could help the man holding her for ransom. The rest of the cast, Strong included, take a backseat, personality and interest wise.

Budreau mixes and matches Bianca’s rational perspective with Lars’s irrationality in a true opposites attract not-quite-love story. They are the spark that keeps “Stockholm” interesting.

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