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Easy Money is a fine title for a film, but to truly savor the tang of this top-drawer Scandinavian thriller, try rolling its original Swedish title off your tongue. Say hello to Snabba Cash.
Director Daniel Espinosa starts his splendid crime story all in a rush, throwing us right into the middle of a trio of chaotic situations.
Introduced first is Jorge, a Chilean living in Sweden — in fact in a Swedish prison. Making his escape, Jorge promptly goes into hiding, as much from other local bad guys as from the police.
Next up is Mrado, a violent enforcer for a ruthless Serbian drug cartel that controls the cocaine traffic in Sweden and is willing to do whatever it takes to stay on top.
Though Jorge and Mrado are central to the plot, the film's protagonist is JW, compellingly played by Joel Kinnaman, who went on to star in AMC's The Killing. He's a handsome young man from a poor country family who's smart enough to have gotten a place in Stockholm's top business school.
JW wants a lifestyle he can't afford, and when fate offers him a way into the drug trade, he sees no reason to resist.
Easy Money succeeds because of Espinosa's impressive filmmaking skills; he's a master at the mechanics of motion-picture action, and he's got a facility for building tension and keeping viewers off balance. He's also got an eye for small details, as well as a gift for psychological complexity.
As the worlds of Jorge, Mrado and JW collide, recombine and collide again, and as JW's understanding of who can be counted on shifts, we in the audience are as worried and uncertain as the characters. Only one lesson holds true from start to finish: There is no such thing as easy money. (Recommended)