Easy Money 

Blond ambition.

Director Daniel Espinosa, three screenwriters, and novelist Jens Lapidus combine to pack two or three movies' worth of plot motivation into Easy Money — aka Snabba Cash — an excellent crime yarn about drug smuggling and the arguably more treacherous business of social climbing in Stockholm, Sweden.

Its protagonist is a handsome, studiedly elegant business school A-student named Johan Westlund (played by Joel Kinnaman), whom everybody calls JW. JW comes from modest circumstances but compensates for that by manufacturing a more glamorous life story and sucking up to rich classmates. He's the kind of guy who pins up menswear fashion-mag spreads in his bachelor pad. On the side, in order to finance his lifestyle, he also moonlights as a taxi driver for a company run by Albanian and Middle Eastern thugs — which is where his troubles begin.

Alongside JW's thread we witness the jailbreak of Jorge (Matias Varela), a Latino Swedish resident and career criminal who wastes no time hooking up with the same goons JW works for. Their plan: to bring in a container of cocaine from Germany. JW, a noncombatant if there ever was one, lands the job of hiding the red-hot Jorge in his flat, but then doubles down by offering his MBA services and banking connections to the smugglers. Little do they know it, but a rival outfit of even more ruthless Serbian gangsters, including a conflicted hit man named Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic), is planning to rip off the dope shipment.

So we've got Serbian hoods battling Albanian and Latino dope dealers battling cops, with out-of-his-league JW well past the point of no return, still trying to impress his society girlfriend, Sophie (Lisa Henni). Something's gotta give. The progress of JW's ambitions alone would make a dandy drama, ditto JorgeÕs role as a representative of Sweden's burgeoning multicultural society, ditto the subplot of brutal Mrado and his little daughter Lovisa. Swedish filmmaker Espinosa, whose Safe House played earlier this year with Kinnaman in a supporting role, conducts this busy scenario with great urgency. The Kinnaman-Varela-Mrsic combo clicks. Easy Money is a 2010 production and the sequel, Snabba Cash II, has evidently already opened in Europe. The Scandinavian resurgence continues.


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