Easy Money, released in Sweden in 2010, stars Joel Kinnaman (best known for the TV series The Killing) as JW, a business student with blue-collar roots working as a cab driver in Stockholm, Sweden. When his two unsavory bosses offer him an outrageous sum to pick up Jorge (Matias Padin Varela), a Chilean drug dealer and escaped convict, JW gets wrapped up in a scheme to intercept a shipment of cocaine intended for the Serbian mob. JW’s story is intertwined with that of Jorge and Mrado Slovovic (Drogomir Mrsic), a Serbian thug, sent to find and kill Jorge.
The film has, deservedly, earned comparisons to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Easy Money, based on the novel of the same name by Jens Lapidus, follows, like the Millenium series, a protagonist with a troubled past who wants revenge. However, Easy Money isn’t as sharp-edged as Dragon Tattoo. The film is, for the most part, fast-paced, but it lingers on moments of heartfelt emotion with a more tender mood, distinctly different from the harsh grittiness of Stockholm’s drug underworld. Kinnaman has an uncanny ability to display the exact emotion needed, and director Daniél Espinosa’s (Safe House) use of eye-level camera angles draws the viewer in to every one of JW’s agonizing decisions. Even scenes featuring the bad guys are shot with an eerie, intrusive intimacy through the use of extreme close-ups charged with emotional weightiness.
While most thrillers feature villains that are nothing more than empty shells used to drive the plot, Easy Money gives us multi-faceted “villains” who each have someone for whom they would do anything. We actually care about them. And in a film full of double- and triple-crosses, these undying devotions make it even more difficult to know who to root for. A drug dealer can have a heart of gold, and more importantly a drug dealer with a heart of gold can still murder someone without flinching.
Easy Money is not just a “guts and gore” action movie, although there is plenty of that. The film is about the consequences of our actions. By desperately trying to keep up the appearance of an extravagant lifestyle with his wealthy friends, JW gets swept up in more than he can handle. After experiencing all the twists and turns we expect from any good thriller, he, along with the audience, comes to the inevitable realization that nothing is ever as it seems. If the idea of Zac Efron producing and starring in this sort of film scares you, see the Swedish version before he takes over as JW in the upcoming American adaptation.