Film Review – The Captor (2019)

Of late, Ethan Hawke hasn’t put a foot wrong. Paul Schrader’s First Reformed last year was an especially stellar turn, but Juliet, Naked and Maudie demonstrated both his range and his many strengths as an actor. Yet Murphy’s law dictates that, with track record like that, somewhere along the line there’s going to be a mis-fire – and Hawke is no exception. His is called The Captor.

The film originally went by the name of Stockholm. Both uninspiring titles and the eventual choice is the lesser of the two: as a reflection of the film, it’s at least a mile wide of the mark. But that’s the least of its problems. Based on “an absurd but true story”, it tells the story of the bank robbery and hostage crisis at the biggest bank in Sweden in 1973 which added a new phrase to the dictionary. Stockholm Syndrome. And, if we don’t know what that means, it’s explained in the first line of dialogue. How thoughtful.

Hawke’s the main perpetrator of the robbery, dressed as a cowboy and brandishing that lethal combination of a machine gun and a radio, but never mentioning money when he holds up the bank. All the customers and most of the staff are allowed to leave, his reason for the heist soon becomes clear and then there’s the proverbial cat and mouse shenanigans with the police, with the cool headed Chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl) at the helm, playing the long game against the volatile Hawke. In between is hostage Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace) who develops a relationship with Hawke that makes her valuable to both parties.

Director Robert Budreau (who also directed Hawke in Born To Be Blue) aims to give us something farcical to match the “absurd” tag. Sometimes it pays off, more often when the police chief is on the screen, but for most of the time it doesn’t. And, given that Budreau directed Hawke in yet another strong role, the fact that he’s elicited a performance that in no way plays to his leading man’s strengths is staggering. What we’re given is something manic and completely over the top, with Hawke shouting his dialogue in large capital letters. Scenery chewing – or, in this case, chomping – is so not his style that it beggars belief that the role didn’t go to somebody for whom it’s the default position (we’ll leave who that could be to your imagination).

And that title never adds up. It implies that the film is about Hawke’s character, but all we ever really find out about him is that he shouts a lot, likes Bob Dylan and is pretty incompetent when it comes to his chosen life of crime. It’s hardly a good fit. If it’s about anybody, it’s Rapace’s Lind, how she copes with her circumstances and the after effects. Admittedly, we don’t get too much of the latter, but you do sense this is perhaps the biggest thing that’s ever happened in her life, the time when she really felt alive and that, for once, she really mattered. Not that Rapace is gifted with the best dialogue going, but it’s a refreshing change to see her a touch more expressive than usual.

If it is intended as a comedy, The Captor doesn’t cut it. There’s the occasional glimmer of tension – a confined space setting for at least some of the time helps – but they’re few and far between and the moments of wry humour are way too sparse to lift proceedings out of the doldrums. The hostages may have become attached to their captors, but it’s hard to work up any similar feelings for the film.

Freda Cooper | [rating=2]

Comedy, Thriller | Cert: 15 | UK, 21 June (2019) | Signature Entertainment | Dir. Robert Budreau | Ethan Hawke, Noomi Rapace, Mark Strong, Christopher Heyerdahl.