Easy Money (Snabba Cash, 2010)

Swedish poster for Easy Money

Another Scandinavian crime film makes it to the American shore. This one is based on a novel by the Swedish writer, Jens Lapidus, which is apparently part of a trilogy. The second book has already been adapted to film as well.

I found the set-up of this one more interesting than the climax. The opening introduces us to three characters — the Spanish-speaking Jorge, who escapes from prison; the Serbian Mrado, who beats two guys up in a men’s room; and a blank-faced party boy named Johan, hanging out with some middle class douchebags in suits. We don’t know who any of these people are, but slowly their identities are revealed, along with their relationships with each other. They are all part of Sweden’s criminal underworld, although Johan — also called JW — is a newbie who gets into it because he likes hanging out with rich douchebags and therefore needs money of his own.

Anybody with any familiarity with the crime or gangster genre can see where this is going. What’s interesting about Easy Money is the view it presents of a multi-cultural lower-class Sweden that isn’t all Ikea and summer cottages in the islands. The film present a polyglot city of characters speaking Spanish, Serbian, English, and Arabic, with Swedish as the lingua franca but still full of slang (some of which was English, but there’s was also some term they were using that was translated in the subtitles as “bro”).

The other interesting thing it does is connect the gangsters to the banking world, with the specter of the recent economic collapse hovering over the proceedings. The implied critique of capitalism as a form of gangsterism is handled in a nicely subtle way, with another tossed off connection being an economics professor at Johan’s school who describes the liquidity crisis in the banking sector and then argues that the crisis is also an opportunity to make money for those with vision and moxie. Because making money is all that society — respectable or not — cares about.

The film also has a nice visual style that occasionally flirts with shaky-cam cliches but over all relies more on off-kilter compositions to give a sense of life out of balance and a skewed perspective.

The other somewhat odd thing this film does is to give Mrado an eight-year-old daughter named Lovisa who becomes his responsibility halfway through when her junkie mother goes into rehab. The kid is a great character, and the single-father angle is unusual, although unfortunately it’s mostly handled in fairly conventional crime-movie ways. This is also true of Jorge’s relationship with his sister and Johan’s relationship with the hot young bourgeois woman, Sophie, who (he’s told) is out of his league. This becomes more and more dissatisfying as the film reaches its very conventional climax, but then we have a coda that leaves us hanging with one of the unsolved mysteries of the film: What happened to Johan’s missing sister, Camille?

So it was almost a relief to read that this is part of a trilogy, because I had seriously downgraded it based on the predictable climax and unresolved denouement. I’m curious enough about these characters that I’d be interested to see the next film. Hopefully this one will do well enough that the next one will sail to America too. Apparently it attracted enough attention that director Daniel Espinosa has already made a Hollywood film, Safe House, with Denzel Washington.

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