The Captor begins with a Coens-esque title card: “Based on the absurd but true story.” The uncertainty in the statement courses through Robert Budreau’s film, which never lands on a tone that successfully unites the absurd with the true. Which is not to say that The Captor doesn’t have its pleasures — a charming Ethan Hawke for one — but the film lacks the surety of hand to bring it to the level of, say, Dog Day Afternoon, one of its clear influences.
The film is very loosely inspired by the true-life incident that gave rise to the phrase “Stockholm syndrome” in which captors fall in love with their abductors. The action centres on bank robber Lars Nystrom (Hawke) who, as a means to secure the release of partner-in-crime Gunnar Sorenssen (Strong), holds up Sweden’s biggest bank, taking workers including Bianca Lind (Rapace) hostage.
Fun and engaging, but doesn't keep its whimsy in check.
The Captor is at its most fun playing psychological cat-and-mouse between Lars and local police chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl, excellent), who seems far more interested in psyching out Lars than with the hostages’ welfare. During the first half, an energetic Hawke has a ball as a rock ’n’ roll perp, all cowboy hats and easy swagger, demanding a million U.S. dollars, a clean exit from the bank and an escape vehicle — “a Mustang 302, like Steve McQueen had in Bullitt”. Lars’ plan — hinging on a fake killing — is ridiculous, but Hawke makes his smart/stupid dynamic winning.
It’s less surefooted with the burgeoning relationship between Lars and Bianca, the shifting dynamics between the pair uncomfortably mapped out. Budreau, who previously collaborated with Hawke two years ago on Chet Baker biopic Born To Be Blue, doesn’t deliver on the crime genre beats or the psychological, emotional complexities. It’s always fun and engaging, but doesn’t keep its whimsy in check to be anything more.