(Canada/Sweden - 2019)
BORN TO BE BLUE. Hawke is "Lars Nystrom," a fictionalized American version of Jan-Erik Olsson, in reality a Swedish convict on a day-long furlough from prison who walked into a Stockholm branch of Kreditbanken on August 23, 1973, allowed the customers and most of the staff to leave, and kept two bank employees hostage until his demands for money, a Mustang, and the release of his imprisoned buddy Clark Olofsson (rechristened "Gunner Sorensson" here and played by Mark Strong) were met. The ordeal becomes a media circus and as time drags on, one of the hostages, Bianca (Noomi Rapace, also one of 20 credited producers) bonds with Lars, portrayed here as an incompetent goof who's in way over his head.
Considering the pop culture ubiquity of the term "Stockholm Syndrome," its origin would seem to be ripe for a riveting story, but Budreau drops the ball by diverting all of his attention to indulging Hawke and encouraging him to unleash his inner Nic Cage with reckless abandon. Sporting a wig, a stache, shades, a cowboy hat, skin-tight leather pants, a huge Steve McQueen man-crush, and jamming to Bob Dylan on his portable radio as he commandeers the bank, Hawke is obviously having the time of his life bringing this character to life. It's a performance that might've worked were it not at the expense of everything else--story, dramatic tension, characterization, substance--as Rapace, Strong, and Christopher Heyerdahl (who's terrific as the sardonic Stockholm police chief trying to contain the situation) are essentially left scrambling for crumbs after Hawke gorges himself on the scenery. Hawke has aged into one of our finest character actors, but he takes Lars from amusing to irritating in record time, and it's telling that the film's best and simultaneously most darkly hilarious and heartbreaking scene doesn't even directly involve him as Rapace's Bianca tries to explain to her nice but hapless husband (Thorbjorn Harr) how to properly fry fish for their two young children since she's being held hostage and is stuck at work. We have no understanding of why Bianca is so drawn to Lars, unless we're just supposed to infer from her frumpy fashion and her dorky, oversized 1973 eyewear that she's bored with her average husband and the off-the-chain Lars seems like a spark of excitement. But STOCKHOLM isn't interested in exploring those kinds of details. Anyone who's seen DOG DAY AFTERNOON ("Wyoming") can attest that there's a way to tell a serious true crime story with dark, absurdist humor. Budreau doesn't seem to know what he wants to do here other than let Hawke run wilder than Robin Williams on a talk show, which soon makes for a tedious hour and a half. (R, 92 mins)
(China/US - 2019)
AVENGEMENT from a couple months ago, but this is a huge step back and one of his worst films. Plus, he's really the second lead here despite his top billing. In a prologue, Quinn (Adkins) wakes up with a strange implant on his neck in a HOSTEL-type torture chamber where his young daughter is among many being held captive in cages. He brawls with the captors and gets thrown out of a window, when it's revealed he's in a castle and plummets to a body of water below. When he comes to the surface, he's in a water fountain in a park in present-day Ho Chi Minh City, stricken with amnesia and with an acute stutter that dissipates when he's slapped. Meanwhile, hired assassin Conner (Andy On, the star of 2002's BLACK MASK 2: CITY OF MASKS, which featured Adkins in an early role) pulls off One Last Job for Vietnamese crime boss Master Trahn (Qin Chuan) just before his wife Maya (Lili Ji) is abducted, Conner presumes, by Russian enemies of Trahn. Tranh assures him the Russians had nothing to do with it, and his dogged search for her leads him to Quinn, now in a psych ward being observed by Dr. Anna Pham (Truong Ngoc Ahn), who eventually discovers that her patient is a time traveler from 1985. Quinn, his memories jogged while under Dr. Pham's care, has told her that alien beings capable of traversing dimensions have enslaved humans as "drones" with spider-like implants on the backs of their necks, intent on harvesting a specific strand of DNA unique to certain people, such as his daughter and Conner's wife.
They're eventually pursued by a hooded alien visitor (Daniel Whyte) as much nonsensical fight scenes and terrible special effects ensue (the alien force manifesting itself into a giant CGI shitheap and declaring "You have such strong, beautiful chi!" isn't exactly a moment on par with Rutger Hauer's "Tears in Rain" BLADE RUNNER monologue in the annals of sci-fi cinema). The throwdowns, coordinated by the usually reliable Tim Mak (TRIPLE THREAT), are uninspired, the script by Syfy vet Mike MacLean (DINOCROC VS. SUPERGATOR, SHARKTOPUS, PIRANHACONDA) just cribs from Philip K. Dick, DARK CITY, THE MATRIX, and 12 MONKEYS with little understanding of any of them, and the direction by DTV vet Ernie Barbarash (who previously worked with Adkins in the not-bad 2011 JCVD vehicle ASSASSINATION GAMES) offers little in the way of style and excitement. Erstwhile '80s Cannon bad guy Aki Aleong puts in a brief appearance as Dr. Pham's mentor and is among 27 credited producers, along with Adkins and Roger Corman. Adkins has been making a convincing case for years now that he should be a big-screen action star, and if you haven't seen AVENGEMENT, it's one of the year's best films. It's commendable that he's such a tireless workhorse and stays so busy--this is his fourth film in 2019 so far, with another five (!) due out by the end of the year--but in the end, quality has to trump quantity, and drek like ABDUCTION is doing nothing to further the Adkins cause. (Unrated, 97 mins)