'Easy Money,' a crime thriller that pays off handsomely
In The Killing, the rain-soaked noir that ran for two (mostly) riveting seasons on AMC, Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman slipped into the skin of a strung-out Seattle police detective whose mental and physical state - not to mention his loyalty - were in constant doubt.
In Easy Money, a sleek and supremely satisfying crime thriller released in Sweden in 2010 (as Snabba Cash), Kinnaman is the complete opposite of Holder from The Killing: a university economics major from the sticks who ghostwrites term papers, moonlights driving a cab, and takes his sartorial cues from the glossy pages of men's fashion mags.
Kinnaman's JW wants nothing more than to move with the moneyed crowd, and when he falls in with a clique of tanned, tony Stockholm trust-funders, you can feel the rush coming off him. It's a world of weekend getaways at country estates, posh penthouse parties, exclusive clubs. And then he falls for Sophie (Lisa Henni), an heiress with a killer smile. They flirt at discos, they go to a museum, she takes him home to meet the parents. And he heaps one lie about his life, and who he is, atop another.
In truth, to pay for the clothes and the car, JW, who keeps a cramped apartment on a decidedly un-chic side of town, has designed a scheme to help a gang of drug dealers launder their cash. But between Jorge (Matias Varela), a Bosnian bad guy just escaped from prison, and Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic), a Serbian mafioso, and a sinister scrum of Albanian thugs and Russian mobsters, JW's ingenious money-laundering plan hits a few serious, and violent, snags.
Easy Money has been directed with pulsating cool by Daniel Espinosa, a Swede who segued from this film to the Denzel Washington/Ryan Reynolds spy thriller Safe House. The action is fast and fierce, as are the crosses and double-crosses. It's a story of the lure (and lucre) of wealth, of skewed morality, friendship, and betrayal. It's Kinnaman's movie, and he's riveting, but the supporting cast is likewise wholly invested, wholly convincing.
An English-language remake is in the works, but why wait for the Hollywood knockoff? Easy Money is the real thing: a great gangster pic.