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July 12,2012
Stef   /   0 Comments   •   Projects Snabba Cash

In Daniél Espinosa’s crime thriller “Easy Money,” Joel Kinnaman — familiar as a sullen, scruffy police detective with a druggie past in the AMC series “The Killing” — does a riveting about-face. His character, J. W., is a swaggering young business student and a part-time cabdriver in Stockholm who helps drug dealers launder their money.

With his long, slicked-back hair and reptilian suavity, Mr. Kinnaman resembles the young Keith Carradine. But his skin-deep arrogance barely conceals a quivering wariness and insecurity. Even after acquiring the nickname Mr. Brains at a gangsters’ colloquy, in which he advises the crooks to stash their millions in Andorra and Liechtenstein rather than Switzerland because of new banking regulations, he is visibly nervous. As his schemes go awry, he howls in panic and frustration.

An avid social climber from a poor family in northern Sweden, J. W. has everything going for him but the money to finance an upscale lifestyle. His situation becomes desperate when he hooks up with Sophie (Lisa Henni), a beautiful, wealthy socialite who imagines that he is rich. When he meets her parents, he lies and pretends to be the son of a diplomat based in South Africa.

The movie suggests that even in a country like Sweden, with its broad social safety net, there is a clear-cut caste system with an upper class hostile to intruders. The drug of choice among these beautiful people is cocaine, and their attitude is cynical and entitled. The global financial crisis has shaken their world to the extent that J. W., seizing an opportunity, arranges for drug money to be funneled through a major bank on the verge of collapse.

Directed by Mr. Espinosa (“Safe House”) from Jens Lapidus’s novel “Snabba Cash,” the movie, which is “presented” by Martin Scorsese, an early champion, envisions a contemporary Sweden whose porous borders are easily penetrated by criminal organizations divided along ethnic lines. If the word cartel is not heard, you have the same chilling sense that these warring parties are as ruthless as the members of Mexican cartels who decapitate their enemies.

The story’s network of deals, betrayals, reversals and double crosses is so complicated it is almost impossible to follow. But as J. W. is drawn in ever more deeply and witnesses extreme violence, he receives a moral education in what a cynic might call real-world values.

In a director’s note Mr. Espinosa describes his fascination with “the idea of thief’s honor” and with portraying criminals who, from their point of view, “are trying to do good through their own ethics.” And this soul-searching quest lends “Easy Money” a depth rarely found in gangster films.

J. W. is one of three main characters whose stories are skillfully interwoven. The others, Jorge (Matias Padin Varela) and Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic), represent competing criminal factions and are even more invested than J. W. in the big score.

In their eyes, J. W. is a naïve sucker for imagining that anyone in this deadly game lives up to his word. Loyalty is a luxury no one can afford in this toxic climate of greed and fear. Both warn J. W. that he will be tossed aside without seeing a penny once he is no longer useful, and that if he tries to get justice, he will be “hunted down like a dog.”

The screenplay, by Maria Karlsson — written in collaboration with Mr. Espinosa, Fredrik Wikstrom and Hassan Loo Sattarvandi — humanizes these criminals, and your feelings about them change as the story proceeds.

Both Jorge and Mrado were traumatized by brutal upbringings and have considerable self-awareness beneath their rage. Jorge has a pregnant sister who banishes him from her home after thugs beat up her husband in an incident that ends her marriage.

Mrado tells a childhood horror story of urinating blood for three weeks after being beaten and kicked by his father. He is devoted to his 8-year-old daughter, Lovisa (Lea Stojanov), whom he pathetically tries to shield from the realities of his life. In one of the movie’s saddest moments, she begs him not to leave her alone because she is scared, and he lashes out at her.

Source: NY Times

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