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Easy Money - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Easy Money
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: A-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B

These days you hear the phrase "crime thriller" and, if it's in reference to an American film, there's not much reason to imagine it's all that great. Generally speaking, that remains the case even if it's some indie film that's "presented" by a highly respected American filmmaker like Martin Scorsese.

Easy Money is actually Swedish, but still "presented by Martin Scorsese," in a clear attempt by American marketers to increase its pedigree. It really isn't necessary. This is a movie that stands on its own strengths.

Johan, otherwise known as JW (Joel Kinnaman), is a business school student living in a dorm he keeps from his upper-crust friends who think he's rich. He's actually leading a double life: he drives a cab to earn the cash to go to parties with rich people. There's not a whole lot revealed about JW's background, just a few details establishing his working-class family. And that's fine, really.

There's a timeliness to this movie, as it uses the worldwide economic downtown in crucial plot points. In one particularly telling scene, a professor is addressing his students -- including JW -- that even in downturns, there are those who find a way to use it to their advantage.

Most people can probably relate to JW's motivations, even if he does sink deeper and deeper in over his head as he gets involved in drug running. There is, indeed, easy money in it -- and who doesn't want to make money easily? We know, of course, that JW's naivete might just get the better of him. The great thing about Easy Money is to see how JW learns to adapt as the plot takes several turns we really don't see coming.

There aren't any blatant shockers, exactly -- that would be a bit gimmicky. It's just that director Daniel Espinosa keeps you guessing. Indeed, the movie doesn't even start with JW -- it starts with Jorge (Matias Varela), a Spanish criminal escaping from prison. For a little while, we cut back and forth between Jorge and JW, and at first it seems impossible they could have anything to do with each other. We just wait for the moment when a connection is established.

As it happens, JW earns his first quick wad of cash by assisting in hiding Jorge in his student housing room. And so begins JW's developing relationship with the Stockholm drug trade, as does a relationship with a woman who thinks he comes from money. The relationship with the girl is perhaps the weakest story thread; it's always kind of a mystery why she remains infatuated with him even when she notices inconsistencies in the apparent lies he's telling.

That said, there's an almost effortless feel to the way this story plays out, juggling several characters with separate and distinct motivations and tensions. There's a lot to chew on here, from the way someone might almost accidentally fall into this type of crime to the limited means of getting out of it. Still, it all comes down to the choices people make.

Easy Money ends ambiguously, but in a way that's oddly satisfying. JW makes choices in the end that are a little baffling, which is usually not good for a movie but somehow here it works. It sort of feels like we're not meant to know what the hell he's thinking. Sometimes naive people can be the most unpredictable.

Joel Kinnaman is in over his head in EASY MONEY.

Overall: B+
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