The lure of sudden riches can make brothers of the most disparate men, a fact that's explored from a variety of angles in the Swedish crime thriller Easy Money. Jorge (Matias Padin Varela) is a Chilean prison escapee with rare knowledge of the cocaine business and a plan for the big score that'll set him up for life on the other side of the world. Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic) is a hit man with the Serbian mafia, sent to dispatch Jorge but harboring secret dreams of his own. And JW (Joel Kinnaman, star of AMC's The Killing) is an economics student leading a double life, presenting himself as a wealthy young socialite and funding the charade with a grubby job as a cabbie. Presented with an opportunity to make his moneyed pose a reality, JW accepts, and the twisty dance of Easy Money begins.
With his fresh-scrubbed face and clean criminal record, JW is clearly meant to be the audience's surrogate: a would-be "regular person" drawn into a lawless world of double crosses and desperate action. (Kinnaman brings a perfect balance of charm and creepiness to the role, like Pretty in Pink's James Spader crossed with Pretty in Pink's Andrew McCarthy.) But the film effectively has three protagonists, with the audience led to empathize not only with the innocent-ish JW, but with the conniving convict Jorge (whose broken relationship with his family is a major subplot) and the hit man Mrado, whose duties are complicated by the arrival of his 8-year-old daughter, left to his care while her mother's in rehab.
By the time Easy Money starts to explode, the audience knows enough about each of these men—his circumstances and motives and personality—to somehow be rooting for all three of them. But of course the brotherhood of greed is entirely provisional—something always goes wrong, connections are missed, new opportunities arise, and soon it's every man for himself. Director Daniel Espinosa keeps a tight rein on the growing chaos, with expert pacing and some stylishly elliptical violence. (Man enters apartment with a hammer, exits with a hammer dangling bloody hair.)
Such a hit was Easy Money in its native country (where it was released with the beguiling title Snabba Cash) that two sequels have been planned, with the first seeing release this year. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. is planning an American remake starring Zac Efron. But it'll be hard for any of these to top the precision, depth, and surprise of the original.