A wild Bill Skarsgård swings for the fences and hits the moon in Netflix’s Swedish drama about the infamous (and he himself would say famous) Scandinavian bank robber, Clark Olofsson. Following Sweden’s first ‘celebrity gangster’, this theme hopping in-your-face explosion of a show will have viewers both wide-eyed and wondering just how they’d never heard the name Clark Olofsson before.
Let’s start with the burning question — who is Clark?
Probably most well-known for his part in the Norrmalmstorg robbery of 1973 (the events of which coined the phrase ‘Stockholm Syndrome’), Olofsson’s notorious life has seen him convicted of assault, attempted murder, and dealing narcotics. However, all pale in comparison (in his head anyway) to his “first love”, bank robberies. Straight off the bat, it should be said this six-part show isn’t designed to lead you inch by inch to the most famous moment in Clark’s life, in fact the episode dedicated to Norrmalmstorg might actually be the weakest of the bunch. What it is in fact, is a barrage of themes, wild stylistic choices, and a monster performance that take you speeding through Clark’s journey of infamy and celebrity in a way that’s impossible to ignore or look away from.
This begins from minute one — very much a ‘start as you mean to go on’ mentality from director Jonas Åkerlund as he superimposes Skarsgård’s head onto a baby, thus kicking off an opening montage promising action, debauchery, and downright carnage for the next six hours. There are snippets on offer of the unhinged performance you’re about to see from the Pennywise actor.
And unhinged he is. Delivering a towering, monstrous, electric performance, he carries us on Clark’s volcanic journey, with each eruption of illegal activity leaving anyone he crosses paths with in his wake. This gigantic performance goes hand-in-hand with just how large the show is trying to go (and not just in its episode names). There’s crazy fantasy sequences, animation, and even a five minute mansplation from Clark on the female anatomy complete with a cartoon. All of which and more are held together by this magnetic acting showcase from Skarsgård.
Childish yet charming, violent yet humorous, Skarsgård takes you round the houses and back again, flicking between friends, love affairs, prison escapes, and countries so fast you do well to not come away with whiplash. It would also be a tragedy not to mention Christoffer Nordenrot’s performance as Clark superfan turned bank robber Janne Olsson, who comes close to matching Skarsgård’s energy. While notable shout outs should also go out to Hanna Björn who plays Clark’s first wife Maria and to Vihelm Blomgren as Tommy-Pony, the reluctant detective charged with capturing Olofsson time and time again.
As a complete entity the show is unapologetically what it is, it’s not pretending to be an in-depth character study of a criminal’s psyche, with the majority of proceedings actually operating on a very bubbly, sparkling, comedic surface level. This is aside from the finale, which purposely exists to let the air out of Clark’s balloon somewhat, while mentions of his Father throughout attempt to give some tiny meaning to his life of crime, though it is, if we have to reduce it, a successful glamorisation.
Not pretending to be substance over style, its engaging storytelling coupled with the mammoth central performance is enough to warrant committing to the six-episodes. Oh, and the Wikipedia rabbit hole it’ll send viewers tumbling down afterwards.