DVD Review: 'Easy Money'

★★★☆☆
It's not very often that you see a new UK release that's already had a sequel made and circulated in its native country. Knowing that this is part one does cause concern that it will have an open-ended finale, but it's also encouraging to know that this initial offering was evidently good enough to have earned a second bite of the cherry. As such, Daniel Espinosa's Easy Money (Snabba cash, 2010) doesn't disappoint. Joel Kinnaman plays Johan Westlund, a charismatic young student who leads a double life, convincing his bourgeois friends that he is from a privileged background, attracting the interest of the beautiful Sophie (Lisa Henni).

In order to help fund his lie and his new way of life, Westlund becomes a drug runner for fugitive Jorge (Matias Varela), who is on the run from both the police and the Serbian mafia, led by the brutal Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic). As Johan builds up a relationship with Jorge, suddenly this dangerous vocation seeps into his personal life, as he spirals into a dark and dangerous world of no return. Directed Espinosa - who has since made the move over to Hollywood to direct Safe House - Easy Money is yet another captivating Scandinavian picture that is sure to find an audience in Britain, with those quirky idiosyncrasies we have come to expect.

Espinosa's latest does have a certain Hollywood feel to it, and it's easy see why Martin Scorsese is endorsing this taut, foreboding thriller - which pensively build towards a conclusion you fear may not go quite as the protagonists had initially planned. It bears similarities to Guy Ritchie's debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) in that respect, while also being effortlessly stylish, avoiding contrivance and benefiting from a naturally magnetic lead. So often in films such as this, we question our lead's motives, scrutinising over how they became so entangled in such a risky lifestyle. However, in our protagonist Westlund's case, it all seems plausible, in turn allowing the viewer to root for him.

It's intriguing to see the criminal underworld through the eyes of such a novice, and Kinnaman turns in a fine performance as our sympathetic protagonist. Espinosa crafts the character well, as Westlund is built up early on as a charming, benevolent man who can do whatever he pleases, only enhancing the effect of his crashing to reality, as we realise that it had all been a mere façade, as his flaws and imperfections become prominent.

On the whole, Easy Money is an enjoyable picture, despite feeling somewhat too archetypal of its genre, with the raw components to make something unique and yet falling into conventionality. That said, it’s impossible not to get caught up with the characters and their predicament, so although it may have taken three years for Easy Money to finally receive a release in the UK, here's hoping we don't have to wait quite so long for the sequel.

Stefan Pape

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