If not for the title, and its connection to the real-life psychological condition derived from the real-life incident depicted within, “Stockholm” would be a complete snooze, a hostage drama that spins its wheels and squanders some talented actors.
It’s 1973, and a man — played by Ethan Hawke — in leather jacket, leather pants and a cowboy hat enters a bank in Stockholm, Sweden. In his duffel bag is a radio, set apparently on an all-Dylan station, and a semi-automatic weapon. He gives his names as Kaj, born in Sweden and raised in America. He takes three of the bank employees hostage, and demands that police bring him Gunnar, another bank robber now in prison.
The police chief (Christopher Heyerdahl) finds Gunnar (Mark Strong), and makes a deal to turn him into a go-between for Kaj and the police. Turns out Gunnar and Kaj are ex-cellmates and best friends, and Gunnar talks Kaj through the hostage situation.
As the days stretch out, Kaj — if that is his real name — starts showing some empathy and tenderness to one of the bank hostages, Bianca Lind (played by Noomi Rapace). Bianca, who has a husband (Thorbjørn Harr) and kids at home, but she also starts feeling sympathetic toward her shaggy-haired captor. This is, as the title reminds us, where the phrase “Stockholm syndrome” was invented, after all.
Director-writer Robert Budreau worked with Hawke quite successfully in “Born to Be Blue,” in which Hawke played the trumpeter Chet Baker. Their rapport then seems to have flown the coop here, and Hawke falls back on his worst impulses of lackadaisical hipster anti-heroics. Budreau also seems cowed by the strained comic elements of the story and stymied by the conventions of the heist thriller, scared perhaps of the looming ghost of “Dog Day Afternoon” and other superior hostage movies.
Still, Hawke and Rapace (the original Lisbeth Salander) manage some chemistry in their scenes together, when not being held hostage to the creaky plot mechanics. Maybe they even learned to love “Stockholm,” which is more than I could say.
Opened April 12 in select cities; opens Friday, July 12, at the Megaplex Jordan Commons (Sandy). Rated R for language and brief violence. Running time: 92 minutes.