- Running time:
- 119 minutes
- Joel Kinnaman -
- Matias Padin Varela -
- Dragomir Mrsic -
- Lisa Henni -
- Deja Cukic -
- Radovan Kranjic
Easy Money (* * * stars out of four, R, opens this week in New York and L.A.) is so sobering an example of why crime doesn't pay that it could be shown to petty drug thugs to scare them straight.
Based on the best-selling 2006 Swedish novel Snabba Cash by Jens Lapidus, this riveting crime thriller takes place in Stockholm, but key players are Spanish, Serbian and Arab, as well as Scandinavian. The cast is uniformly top-notch and the cinematography is striking. The downbeat tale is morally grounded, without ever being preachy.
Director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) clearly knows how to fashion slick, intelligent and tense action thrillers with multidimensional characters.
A palpable sense of dread infuses the lives of three men, all seduced by the lure of quick and large sums of money. Each gets caught up in an elaborate cocaine deal and embroiled with ruthless types who exploit them.
JW (Joel Kinnaman) is a brainy Swedish business student from a lower-class background who pastes pictures of elegantly clad male models on the walls of his dorm room so he can emulate their style. He funds his expensive tastes by driving a taxi illegally. Kinnaman, a regular on TV's The Killing, is pitch-perfect in the role, with his smooth good looks barely masking his desperate striving.
Jorge (Matias Padin Varela) has escaped from prison and longs to help his struggling sister with the money he hopes to make from one big drug deal. Varela projects an intriguing blend of innocence and cruelty.
Dispatched by his unsavory cab owner boss, JW gets involved in an elaborate chase and saves Jorge's life. The two become friends.
Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic), an enforcer for the Serbian Mob, is hot on Jorge's tail. Thrust into the middle of Mrado's thuggish antics is his sweet young daughter, suddenly put in his care. Mrsic is a black belt martial artist, not a trained actor, but he's superb in the morally complex role.
It's hard not to root for these guys when they exhibit their wounded humanity: Jorge makes desperate efforts to help his pregnant sister. Mrado attempts to be kinder to his child than his own heartless father was to him and break the cycle of cruelty that scarred him as a boy. A recurring theme is how each of these men was mistreated or abandoned by his father.
The film's only weak link is a not very believable love story between JW and Swedish heiress Sophie (Lisa Henni).
One of the film's most intriguing elements is the lack of heroes. Each key character is a hustler, trying to do the right thing according to his own skewed sense of ethics. Some of their actions make sense, some are simply foolish, and others inspire revulsion.
While it's undeniably exciting as a straight-ahead thriller, there's a fatalistic mood underlying the suspense. Easy Money probes characters' allegiances, and the shifting loyalties of the audience. The result, nimbly woven together, is fascinating.
Movie theaters and showtimes for Easy Money in St. Louis.
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