Typical of the Weinstein Company (and of Miramax when they ran it), the Weinsteins have been slow in inundating Americans with the Swedish thriller Easy Money. So much time has elapsed that the film, a big hit in its homeland, has already birthed two as-yet-unreleased sequels, director Daniel Espinosa has already graduated to a Denzel Washington hit (Safe House) and its star, the absurdly gaunt Joel Kinnaman, has been made the new Robocop. That’s to say nothing of the inevitable American remake, which has Zac Efron (of course) attached. It will shock none when the redo pales in comparison to the original, but that may be in part because the original, unlike a lot of snatched-up-for-remake fodder, is actually is better in the particulars than in the big picture.
Kinnaman plays JW, an impoverished economics student who moonlights as a Tom Ripley-type, hanging with the bored rich while hiding his paltry bank account. Unlike Ripley, he’s not psychotic, just stupid: To maintain this questionable ruse, he figures it’s a good idea to embroil himself in the drug trade. This goes as well as expected, and it means he rubs shoulders with the film’s other two focal points: Jorge (Matias Padin Varela), a Chilean veteran of the drug game, and Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic), a Serbian hitman and single father.
The plot chiefly revolves around JW’s naivete, as he and Jorge wind up attached to a major cocaine deal, with Mrado waiting in the wings to either save or exploit our in-over-his-head hero. But all three characters prove, at least at times, worthy of our sympathy. A hothead who violently escapes from prison in the opening scene, Jorge is saved by his exhaustion with a self-perpetuating business where no one is trustworthy. Ditto Mrado, who also, in a cheap volley for our emotions, has a spunky young daughter to cart around. Easy Money is more interested in subtle character shadings - a shot of JW patching up one of his dress shirts, for e.g. - than in the machinations of the plot, which tends to seem more complex than it ultimately proves. Director Espinosa’s herky-jerky camerawork feigns intensity even during the mundane scenes, helping to create an effective, serious-if-silly thriller that’s fine, albeit still inferior to 1983's Easy Money with Rodney Dangerfield and Joe Pesci.