Easy Money

Movie Information

The Story: A social-climbing college student becomes embroiled in a complicated drug deal involving warring criminal factions in an attempt to keep his upper class pose financed. The Lowdown: Complex and involving Swedish crime thriller that pulls you into its story, but is ultimately a little too grim for its own good.
Genre: Crime Thriller
Director: Daniel Espinosa (Safe House)
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Matias Padin Varela, Dragomir Mrsic, Lisa Henni, Mahmut Suvakci
Rated: R

It’s easy to see why the Weinsteins and Martin Scorsese opted to bring this two-year-old Scandanavian crime thriller to the U.S. It’s a twisty, curvy yarn much in the manner of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) and Headhunters (2011), which means it’s a lot more interesting, involved and clever than its recent English language counterparts. That said, it should be immediately noted that Easy Money differs by being an extremely dour, downbeat and an even somewhat depressing affair. I suppose that makes it a more realistic affair — especially when compared with the ending of Headhunters. However, it’s also what makes Easy Money…well, not a whole lot of fun. That, of course, is likely intentional, but unless you’re particularly concerned with Swedish class distinctions (a central aspect of the story), its grim tone may feel a little forced and not especially interesting.

This is a film that cleverly pulls you into its story — or stories — by setting up various situations without seeming to do so. It follows events without explaining them until they intersect — almost to the point that the first part of the movie doesn’t really seem to be going anywhere. By the time the events tie up, you’re thoroughly intrigued by — well, just wanting to know what the hell is going on. The center of the film concerns Johan “JW” Westlund (Joel Kinnaman, TV’s The Killing), a working-class college student who feels the need to pose as upper class in order to fit in. The reality of living in crummy student housing and eking out a bare existence as a cab driver can never cross paths with the image he projects. It’s this — combined with falling in love with rich girl Sophie (Lisa Henni) — that edges him into becoming involved in an ever-more-complex crime scheme that is better experienced than described. The appeal of the film very much lies in the way the plot develops — and the way it involves him with two specific characters.

The other major players are Jorge (Matias Varela), an escaped convict with a pregnant sister, a Serbian crime lord (Dejan Cukic) out to kill him, and Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic) a criminal determined to make a big score in order to provide for his young daughter (Lea Stojanov). Both of these characters play key roles in JW’s dealings with the criminal world. As is often the case in this kind of thriller, loyalties are, at best, shifting and, at worst, non-existent. To the film’s credit, nearly every double-cross that comes along makes perfect sense — sometimes to the point of generating sympathy for the double-crosser — in the flow of the events. It’s clear that JW is the character we’re supposed to have the most sympathy for — mostly because he’s the poor boob in over his head — but the film is more satisfying for making Jorge and Mrado more than just gangsters. All the twists and turns lead to an ending that makes sense — and does so in a dramatically valid, suspenseful manner.

There’s certainly no denying that it holds your interest. It’s held Swedish interest to the extent of spawning two sequels (the third is currently in production) with most of the same characters and actors, so we can probably expect these to make the crossing before long. (And probably an American remake, too.) It might not be the “new” Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, but it’s compelling enough to warrant a look. Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content and some sexuality.

Starts Friday at Fine Arts Theatre

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

4 thoughts on “Easy Money

  1. Big Al

    Am I the only one who finds subtitled foreign films difficult to enjoy? I can’t focus on the visual quality of these films as I am too busy reading the subtitles. I usually wait for them to come out on DVD so I can pause and rewind for best viewing.

  2. Ken Hanke

    No, you’re not the only one, but I have to say that I personally don’t see the problem. Maybe it’s years of doing it, but I can take in the subtitles and the images at the same time — at least for the most part. An excessively talky film might be another matter, but I can’t actually think of one that bothered me.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Interestingly, I had a talk with the fellow who delivers my oxygen just a while after the above post, and he put forth the observation that he actually likes subtitled movies because they force him to pay closer attention.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.