Forget Abba, blonde twins or that chef from the Muppets – Sweden is now rapidly becoming better known as the home of some of the world’s best hard-nosed potboilers.

From Stieg Larsson’s all-conquering ‘Girl’ saga, through to the likes of the upcoming film adaptation of ace novel the Hypnotist, the country has hoisted itself to the forefront of a very particular brand of harsh crime thrillers.

The London Film Festival decided to jump on the bandwagon by screening Easy Money 2 (or Snabba Cash II to give its Swedish title), which had the added bonus of being fronted by Joel Kinnaman, hopefully set to break through with his lead role in the upcoming Robocop remake.

To prime the audience, those kindly folk also elected to screen the original Easy Money from 2010, allowing viewers (like myself) the chance to wallow in both movies back-to-back.

Easy Money is a slick, visually impressive caper, yet again based on a novel (by Jens Lapidus) and it is no surprise to note the Hollywood remake vultures are circling preparing to swoop, or that Martin Scorsese has pushed for a US release.

Kinnaman plays JW, an economics student in Stockholm, who, despite being from a poor family and low on cash, fancies himself as a bit of a player.

In fact, thanks to a night job as a taxi driver, JW is able to scrape together enough cash to reinvent himself as a big-time party-goer, mixing with the elite in a bid to gatecrash the highlife.

But things take a very different turn when he is offered 20,000 kroner to pick up an unnamed passenger, which before long sees JW at the centre of a turf war involving Arab drug dealers, Serbian crime bosses, Spanish lowlifes and wayward hitmen.

If that all sounds rather complex then that is because it is, with Easy Money struggling at times to pull together the numerous plot strands.

In fact, with the desperate bid to keep all the storylines ticking over, the film seems a lot longer than its two-hour running time.

Pacing issues aside though the film has a lot going for it, with Kinnaman making a splash as the student finding himself gradually in way over his head.

There are also solid additional performances from the likes of Matias Varela as Jorge and Dragomir Mrsic as hitman Mrado.

Director Daniel Espinosa obviously has a keen eye for the nice shot, with the film looking great throughout.

And, although there may be less action than you originally think (certainly after a brutal beatdown in a male toilets early on), the action that is here is very well-handled, including a neat harbour shootout to close.

With Espinosa using Easy Money as his calling card to move to Hollywood, directing this year’s useful actioner Safe House, responsibility for the sequel fell to Babak Najafi, who had but one film credit to his name.

Najafi’s angle is to trim the running time and up the action quota, meaning Easy Money 2 is a breakneck romp that, while often pushing the boundaries of plausibility, is damn entertaining.

By now JW is tucked away in prison, where he somewhat bizarrely elects to become best pals with Mrado, despite their previous differences.

But, having perfected a banking computer system on the inside, JW is gutted to realise on his release that a former pal has sold the system to a company – cutting him out of the deal.

Both penniless and homeless, Kinnaman’s now battle-hardened character elects to head into the criminal underworld again, joining forces with Mrado to wage war on the Serbian kingpins.

All of the cast from the first film return (those that are still alive anyway), meaning anybody who has not checked out the original will have no real idea what is going on.

But it is nice to see a sequel that really is a continuation of a story, rather than some tired retread.

As said earlier the action comes thick and fast in Easy Money 2, from copious shootouts, to gory throat slashings to a superbly staged car crash sequence.

There is still the clunking emotion that blighted the first flick, with a seemingly desperate attempt to humanise each of the criminals.

But Kinnaman is on top form again, with his JW proving an enigmatic and genuinely intriguing creation.

Special mention must also go to the soundtrack of both films, a mix of pumping club tunes and ambient sounds that I shall certainly be tracking down.

According to a few sources a Snabba Cash III is already planned for late next year – which, if it is anything like the first two, then I am in.

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.