TV: Clark

The question definitely isn’t whether Netflix’s Clark (2022) has a toxic protagonist, but whether it knows it. Mercifully it does, and even manages to call it out eventually. But to what end? Not much of one, I’m afraid, which makes for an aggravating watch.

Clark’s subject is Clark Olofsson (Bill Skarsgård), an infamous Swedish “celebrity criminal” with numerous claims to fame, including direct involvement with the incident behind the phrase “Stockholm syndrome.” The product of a broken home, Clark quickly proves to be a delinquent teenager and is frequently tossed into prison, only to repeatedly escape to commit more crimes, bed more women, and leave a trail of destruction in his wake. Clark’s good looks and charisma help him skate through each crisis, even as he makes a lifetime enemy of police detective Tommy Lindström (Vilhelm Blomgren). During the fateful Normalmstorg robbery, Clark gains notoreity for defusing a hostage crisis to which he’s partially complicit, building his legend. He doesn’t remain a national hero for long, though, essentially becoming the textbook definition of the word “recidivist.”

“Based on truths and lies,” the title credits boast, adopting a cheeky, hyperbolic pseudo-historical vibe in the vein of The Great, with a certain frenetic Run Lola Run filmic style. As such, Clark isn’t without a certain entertainment value, delivering chaotic flair with its biopic source material. Skarsgård has a grand old time brining this malignant narcissist to life, and the colorful period trappings and wild narrative energy keep the story moving. But ultimately, it ends up being little more than a celebration of one toxic dickhead’s chronic misbehavior. As toxic dickhead lifetimes go, Olofsson’s is at least moderately interesting on a historical level, but not probably six hours’ worth of interesting. He swaggers from one rude, selfish caper to the next, hoodwinking the world into liking him as he basically does whatever the fuck he wants. Do we need another tale about an entitled James Bondian fuckwit who never receives the comeuppance he deserves, in this day and age? The closest he gets to a dark moment—aside from the abusive-father backstory with which the script excuses his behavior—is when his biographer decides not to publish because she finds him irrelevant. Alas, the very existence of this miniseries undermines its own point. The performances and style are engaging enough, but this one leaves a sour, pointless taste in the mouth.

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