Theatrical release: 01/15/2010 (Sweden); 07/11/2012 (US, limited) DVD Date: 03/26/2013
Rating: R Running Time: 125 minutes
Note(s): Adapted screenplay by Maria Karlsson, and based on the novel Snabba Cash by Jens Lapidus.
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Review: This crime thriller (in Swedish with English subtitles) is adapted from the first in the "Stockholm Noir" trilogy of books by Jens Lapidus and largely serves as an introduction to the character of Johan Westlund, who goes by JW. That's not to say there isn't a story, too, but when all is said and done this film is really a character study. And a very good one at that.
JW is a business student living in university housing and, like many students, is chronically short of money. He's friends with someone, who isn't hurting for cash, and takes a liking to the lavish lifestyle, one he simply cannot afford to maintain (though one he aspires to). To pay the bills, he drives a car for a private taxi service run by a team of Arabs. They have a side business importing cocaine, small time but large enough to attract the attention of a Serbian crime ring, which wants in on the action. The common link between the two groups is Jorge, a Latino with connections to a source in Germany. All this information is provided in a rapid sequence of scenes at the start of the film; it is hard to follow at first but as the four storylines — JW, Jorge, the Arabs, and the Serbs, which are represented by one Mrado — start to merge it becomes more clear what's going on. JW is hired to protect Jorge from Mrado, who sees Jorge as the weak link in the Arab chain. JW agrees because the money he's offered is good. He then becomes an unwitting, if not exactly unwilling, pawn in a power struggle between the two groups. (There is a subplot about JW getting involved with the daughter of a wealthy family, but that doesn't develop much here … and possibly will be more important later in the series.)
I enjoyed Easy Money, though found it somewhat paradoxically too short and too long. There are a number of instances in the film where one scene transitions to another with little context, places that could have used an extra minute or two of explanation. A few other scenes simply drag on far too long for no good reason.
Joel Kinnaman is excellent in the role of JW, which is key to this film's success as the story is basically all about him. He thinks of himself as being smart and confident — he's nicknamed "Mr. Brains" by one of his associates — and he's able to move effortlessly within the world of the wealthy without anyone suspecting he's poor. Yet he is surprisingly insecure: his room is papered with photos of male models, images that he deems to be the "perfect" kind of guy. When he meets Sophie, a woman to whom he is obviously attracted, he cannot express how he feels. And while he knows he's far more intelligent than the people he's working with, it comes as a shock that they, in the end, have out-smarted him.
Easy Money was released in Sweden (under the title Snabba Cash) in early 2010 but only last year was picked up for distribution in the US. The second film in the series was released in Sweden in 2012, featuring the same cast of characters. The third film is currently in post-production. Warner Bros. has optioned the US remake rights to Snabba Cash with Zac Efron to star as JW.