- Rated R
All photos © Weinstein Co.
Reviewed by Ezra Stead
artin Scorsese is credited with presenting the Swedish crime thriller “Easy Money” to a U.S. audience, and it's easy to see why he would like it. Similar to the 2008 Italian mobster film “Gomorrah,” which Scorsese also brought to American audiences, “Easy Money” has a gritty bleakness and a sense of the mundane details of the criminal life so often overlooked in Hollywood crime movies. With an American remake starring Zac Efron reportedly in the works, it will be interesting to see how much of that bleakness and mundane reality will survive the transition.
Joel Kinnaman, star of the AMC series “The Killing” and the upcoming “RoboCop” remake, portrays JW, a lower-class graduate student at Stockholm's business school who struggles to transcend his impoverished upbringing in order to fit in with his wealthy friends at school. One way he does this is by driving a cab at night, which makes for an interesting double-life as he spends most of his evenings on the streets congregating with those even poorer than himself. Through his fellow cab driver, Mahmoud (Fares Fares), he soon finds himself with an opportunity to make a great deal of money for simply picking up escaped convict Jorge (Matias Padin Varela).
Of course, it's not nearly that simple, as JW soon finds out when he discovers Jorge being beaten in the woods by a brutal Serbian gangster known as Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic). He cleverly manages to get Jorge safely back to his boss, Abdulkarim (Mahmut Suvakci), but this is only the beginning of his troubles. Abdulkarim is impressed with JW’s financial knowledge and offers him a more permanent gig laundering money for his cocaine operation. The pay is too good for JW to refuse, and he soon finds himself in way over his head.
Meanwhile, Mrado, who is introduced brutally beating two men in a public restroom, is suddenly forced to take custody of his eight-year-old daughter, Lovisa (Lea Stojanov), when her mother is sent to rehab. This obviously makes his work more difficult, but also puts him in touch with his gentler, more human side, creating a character as complex and interesting as JW himself. In one of the film's best moments, Mrado takes Lovisa grocery shopping; unaccustomed to such domestic chores, he simply follows another man shopping with a daughter about the same age, adding all the same items to his own shopping cart.
At other times, the handling of the film's pervasive parent-child theme is more clumsy, as when Jorge and his sister, Paola (Annika Ryberg Whittembury), have a shouting match about their deceased father. It is refreshing to see a crime picture that takes such pains to humanize all its characters, but at times it feels a bit forced and obvious. Still, between these quiet moments and the tense, suspenseful action scenes, “Easy Money” is an above average thriller worthy of the Scorsese stamp of approval.