Easy Money (Snabba Cash): Film Review

"Easy Money"
Class-consciousness is the strongest suit of a drug-world yarn that could have been much more energizing.

"The Killing's" Joel Kinnaman leads multi-culti Swedish crime flick.

A class-conscious Scandinavian crime film whose impact is dulled by some extraneous subplots, Daniél Espinosa's Easy Money nevertheless makes a solid vehicle for Joel Kinnaman, the Swede who will star in next year's Robocop reboot. Kinnaman's strong performance, and his visibility on AMC's The Killing, should help prospects at the arthouse.

Finding multi-cultural criminality in Sweden, the story has Latinos and Serbs jockeying for drug-lord primacy, then getting locals to help with the money laundering. When the tri-lingual stew gets confusing, characters help each other out by breaking into English.

Kinnaman plays JW, a business student eager to hide his working-class roots. Though he drives a cab and lives in a shabby dorm, he's studied upper-crust fashion and mores well enough to blend in with the rarefied crowd he meets through a classmate -- and eventually to charm Sophie, the girlfriend of one of his moneyed hosts.

It's JW's grubbier friends, though -- whose illicit businesses are unknown to him -- who eventually offer a path to riches. Asked by his boss to go pick up a man being pursued by a rival gang, JW winds up saving his life and tending his wounds at the dorm; after proving his trustworthiness, he gets a chance to use his business acumen to expand the gang's smuggling operation.

JW's idea -- we'll buy a distressed bank for a pittance, then be able to move money however we like -- is both timely and clever, but the movie doesn't find the fun in it; the same is true for the film's sometimes novel (if cringe-inducing) smuggling techniques. Instead, the screenwriters focus on domestic issues (the Serbian tough suddenly thrust into a single-dad role, the escaped con whose family shuns him) that don't resonate with each other as they're intended to.

Tension surrounding JW's affair with Sophie works somewhat better, as in a dicey dinner where he lies to her parents for no reason but instinct. But Kinnaman's watchful performance is keyed to a bigger issue -- the anxiety of being exposed as a class interloper, who won't fit in even if (and, as the double-crosses begin, it's a big if) his plans earn him the millions he expects.

Production Companies: Film i Väst, Tre Vänner Produktion AB
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Matias Padin Varela, Dragomir Mrsic, Lisa Henni, Deja Cukic, Annika Whittembury, Lea Stojanov, Fares Fares
Director: Daniél Espinosa
Screenwriters: Maria Karlsson, Hassan Loo Sattarvandi,
Fredrik Wikström, based on the novel by Jens Lapidus
Producer: Fredrik Wikström
Executive producer: Michael Hjorth
Director of photography: Aril Wretblad
Production designer: Roger Rosenberg
Music: Jon Ekstrand
Costume designer: Denise Östholm
Editor: Theis Schmidt
R, 123 minutes