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I’ve been saying this for years, but…I wish more actors would do what Ethan Hawke did with his career. And that is, give us amazing performances each time out, and do a variety of movies. Maybe an indie film, a music bio pic, or a big budget action picture. He is also discerning in picking projects and doesn’t just do anything that comes into his office.

When he starts this movie strutting into a bank like a singin’ cowboy, with huge hat and fake mustache (looking like Joe Walsh in the ‘70s), you chuckle. Once he takes hostages, you stop laughing.

This film is based on the 1973 Swedish robbery that coined the term “Stockholm syndrome” (the phrase gaining popularity a few years later with the Patty Hearst case).

Lars is one of those bank robbers you can’t imagine a captor falling for, because he’s a bit of a doofus. He’s also rather menacing at times. And who really knows how accurate this is to the true story (we’ve been burned so many times in the past with that “based on a true story” that starts the film).

Bianca (Noomi Rapace of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) is one of the tellers held hostage.

It’s hard to see why she would fall for Lars, despite having some problems at home (which are shown in a rather humorous way, when her husband can’t even figure out how to prepare dinner for their kids in her absence).

When Lars demands his prisoner friend Gunnar (the appropriately named and always welcome Mark Strong) be brought to him and a Mustang like the one in Steve McQueen’s film Bullitt…I thought of the most underrated bank hostage comedy ever made — Quick Change with Bill Murray, Geena Davis, and Randy Quaid (watch it, and thank me later). You wonder if the police are going to bring these items to him, especially with the looks the main officer gives this goofball. The car guys in the crowd will cringe when they see it’s eventually a Mustang Mach 1 that they bring in.

Another movie this made me think of was Dog Day Afternoon. It’s a shame that this wasn’t as good as any of those, but that doesn’t mean you should skip it. It was worth watching and you’ll be entertained.

One of the problems the film has is that you don’t buy the the bad guys and captors bonding the way they did, even with the police showing some ineptitude that’s frustrating them all.

Writer/director Robert Budreau (who wisely cast Hawke to play Chet Baker in Born to be Blue), gives us a movie that’s a bit uneven and inconsistent in tone. Sometimes with the humorous moments, you’re wondering what this movie could have been if the Coen brothers tackled these bumbling bank robbers. Again, having Hawke is the ace in the hole. As things start to look bleak for him, I saw subtle facial expressions that reminded me of the panic he had in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

You end up not caring much about any of these characters and the story feels like something you’ve seen many times before.

There’s a groovy soundtrack with lots of Bob Dylan (Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You, Tomorrow is a Long Time, To Be Alone With You, New Morning), Big Billy & Sebastian, The Steam Machine, and Bobby “Blue” Bland doing “I’ll Take Care of You.” I believe I also heard some Bach.

3 stars out of 5.


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