If you’re into bank heist flicks followed by Bacchanalian flings and fawning paparazzi (who doesn’t mind if the subject is in handcuffs), then Netflix has a show for you.
‘Clark’ is a new, six-episode series that debuted in early May starring Bill Skarsgård (who played Pennywise the Clown in the It film) as Clark Olofsson, the man behind the term Stockholm Syndrome. This unceasing action series has garnered a 96% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes for its sucrose fare: guns, women, and prison breaks all behind Skarsgård’s smiling face. While Skarsgård provides an excellent performance as the man who charmed all of Sweden despite his crimes, six hours of bank robberies, romantic trysts, and similar twists get to be a bit redundant.
‘Clark’ has established itself as a big score for Netflix Nordic, a show rich in production and tone that digs into the heart of a “celebrity criminal” (as Skarsgård as Olofsson refers to himself). The show establishes its commemoration of the vigilante life on the wrong side of the law from its opening Olofsson quote.
“If I can’t be the best of the best, at least I can be the best of the worst.”
Directed by Jonas Akerlund, the story is based on true events from Olofsson’s life, well documented in the 1960s and 1970s Swedish press. Olofsson was essentially born a petty crook, but one with an overabundance of charm, which helped win over his fan base. The show fleshes out real events (and real fun events for the audience), but how much is true remains a mystery.
‘Clark’s’ source material comes from Olofsson’s own enigmatic autobiography, which the man himself asserts is a true story based quite a bit on lies. And in order to keep viewers interested, writers and directors take dramatic liberty with facts to make a more entertaining narrative, which, to their credit, contains quite a bit of material. In the show, Olofsson escapes imprisonment a whopping 17 times, yet the exact real-life number is not confirmed.
Skarsgård’s portrayal is a spot on representation of a man unabashed in his choice of criminal career and, while lovable, remained extremely selfish throughout all of his escapades. Like an adrenaline epicurean, the man goes after all the best thrills — cars, champagne, women, and high-end heists. He “falls in love with every woman he meets,” and ends up with six children with three different women. Skarsgård provides a very believable charisma, delighting in his insouciance, so much so that he births the term Stockholm Syndrome, which is where hostages end up sympathizing with their captor. In episode four, we see the true events that lead to the phrase.
In late 1973, while Olofsson was incarcerated at the Norrköping Prison, bankrobber Jan-Erik Olsson took hostages at Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg, Stockholm. The robber found Olofsson to be somewhere between a heroic example and a mentor, and so demanded that Olofsson be allowed to come to the bank. In secret, police escorted Olofsson to the bank, where he spent the next six days with the hostages, convincing them that the robbers were the good guys and the authorities were the oppressors.
While Skarsgård provides a rollicking ride through Olofsson’s insatiable appetite, there’s little depth beyond the action. This may just reflect real life as well. The man had no emotional ties, and, like a true narcissist, always served himself first. Everything in Olofsson’s life — material good, friendships, romantic connections — were in accordance with his whims and passing taste. Though the man remains enigmatic, it’s hard to connect with anything Olofsson was able to accomplish beyond a lot of fun mixed in with a lot of time behind bars.
Still, there’s great acting performances behind what amounts to a heroic portrait of an empty man. In addition to Skarsgård’s excellent portrayal, the women in Olofsson’s life (Isabelle Grill as Madou, Hanna Björn as Maria, and even his mother, Sandra Ilar as Ingbritt Olofsson) offer a great contrast in showing what true commitment to another person looks like.