‘Easy Money’ is a good film that nearly managed to be a great one

Lisa Henni in 'Easy Money'
Lisa Henni in ‘Easy Money’

You’d need to be a pretty proficient linguist not to need the subtitles when watching Easy Money, which topped the box office charts for 2010 in Sweden where it originated.  There are five languages in use here including a smattering of English.  We also hear German, Spanish, Serbian and Swedish.

Multiple languages make sense when you learn that the origins of the three central characters, whose storylines are each drastically different.

“Jorge” (Matias Varela) escapes from prison at the outset was born of a Southern American mother.  “JW” (Joel Kinnaman) is the main character of the three and is a student at the Swedish School of Economics in Stockholm.  While he is from an ordinary family from the North of Sweden, he runs around with the rich kids and pretends to be one of them as best he can.  “Mrado” (Dragomir Mrsic) is an enforcer for a Serbian mob who is sent in pursuit of Jorge as soon as “Radovan” (Dejean Cukic), the leader of that mob learns of Jorge’s escape.

Jorge had only a year left, but he had to get out in order to use his cousin’s connections with cocaine traffickers in Germany. He is working with “Abdulkarim” (Mahmut Suvakci) who happens to also be JW’s boss.  JW spends his nights driving “fares” for Abdulkarim when he’s not busy partying with his wealthy friends or writing their essay papers for class.  Driving fares and writing papers, all for pay.  So when Abdulkarim needs someone to find Jorge and bring him in, away from Radovan’s men, he gives the assignment to JW with the promise of serious pay.  JW succeeds and ends up hiding Jorge in his student housing room.

Dejan Cukic in 'Easy Money'
Dejan Cukic in ‘Easy Money’

Soon JW is involved in the scheme of large quantity sales of cocaine.  The plan is simple.  Jorge’s cousin works with a group who will deliver the drugs to Abdulkarim’s people in Stockholm.  They will take possession and pay the balance due after sale.  JW is to aid the crew handling the drugs and to launder the huge amounts of cash these sales will bring in.  When Abdulkarim approaches him with this venture, JW’s education is helpful, but so is his insider knowledge from his rich friends that there is an investment bank in serious financial jeopardy.  He proposes that Abdulkarim buy control of this bank with the cash and let the bankers then launder the proceeds.  Abdulkarim thinks this is a genius idea and agrees to give JW 20% of the profits from the laundered funds, and from the other profits the venture will generate.

Meanwhile JW meets “Sophie” who falls in love with him after she dumps the boyfriend she was seeing when she and JW first encounter one another.  He clearly likes her, but is nowhere near as invested in the relationship as she.  Jorge is occupied with his family, including his sister who he learns is pregnant.  The father of her child abandons her after Radovan’s men beat him in a futile search for information on Jorge’s whereabouts.

Mrado is the subject of anger by Radovan for not killing Jorge when he had him in his grasp and he doesn’t endear himself to Radovan when he is hesitant to agree that they must go to war against Abdulkarim, even if he is backed by Albanian gangsters.  The last thing he needs is to be forced to take custody of his 8 year old daughter right then, but it’s that or let her become a ward of the state.  Her mother is dealing with her own drug problems and can no longer care for “Lovisa.”

Director Daniel Espinosa has a lot to work with.  There’s a talented cast and a more than adequate story with plenty of twists and turns to keep the audience enthralled.  There are action scenes and the violence isn’t gratuitous or overdone.  Yet Easy Money, while strong, isn’t nearly as good as it might have been.  Sophie catches JW in an obvious lie but refuses to confront him about it.  Informers are beaten but not killed.  Logic flaws that the best films don’t contain.

JW, Jorge and Mrado are all on journeys and their paths cross.  As such we’re able to see what each learns from the others along the way.  That is part of what makes Easy Money a good film.  But it missed being a great film, which was easily in its grasp.

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