We've all heard about something being too good to be true, but Stockholm may be an example of being too true to be good. "Stockholm syndrome" -- when a captive falls for their captor -- is such a preposterous phenomenon that it's become a punchline, and writer-director Robert Budreau runs with that notion. The term's origin story is given a whimsical tone punctuated with OMG moments, but it's not actually ha-ha funny. In keeping with the "absurd but true" real-life situation, Hawke opens the film putting on an outlandish get-up -- a shaggy wig, a Lone Star state leather jacket, and toy store glasses -- just like the real criminal who robbed KreditBanken in 1973. Lars brings games and a radio to entertain the hostages he knew he'd be taking. He sings Bob Dylan and dreams about Steve McQueen's car from Bullitt. And, just like in real life, when a young bank teller in his custody starts her period, he includes a box of tampons in his list of demands. Chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl) nails it: "He's a softie." And, once the police chief knows that, the hostage negotiation changes strategy, becoming its own psychological experiment.
Hawke has an entire filmography that proves he's great at playing a cad, a cutie, and a cut-up, so it's all in a day's work to throw all three together into a believable sympathetic screw-up. The audience gets Lars, and so does Bianca (Noomi Rapace), the married mother of two who is Lars' favorite hostage. But the film's purpose is to demonstrate how someone can find affection for a bank robber who regularly puts a gun to her temple, and that never quite translates. It's clear why the captives believe their best chance for survival is to side with the bad guys, and somewhat understandable that the bond they forged would lead them to protect their captors from untrustworthy cops. The romance part, though, is blurry: Bianca is a willing participant, but is she making out with Lars because she feels affection or because she wants to ensure her safety? Stockholm is entertaining and to some degree enlightening, but it doesn't deliver the understanding or the laughs that the premise promises.