By Eleanor Ringel Cater
If you know the AMC series “The Killing,” then you already know Joel Kinnaman.
I didn’t and, I didn’t.
I do now.
All it took was a screening of a killer-smart movie Kinnaman made in Sweden in 2010. Called “Easy Money’ (or, in its native land, the provocative-sounding, less Rodney Dangerfield-redolent “Snabba Cash”).
“Easy Money” is a tale of dirty money. JW (Kinnaman) is an economics major who aces exams but worries about social studies. As in, how to get along with the rich and…then richer. You see, he’s from the wrong side of Sweden (I had no idea they had a wrong side).
So he keeps pictures of male models pinned to the wall of his dingy student apartment and studies them as intently as he does his business books. He’s a quick learner. A cheap shirt can be camouflaged by changing the buttons or a better pair of cufflinks.
Before long, his college buddies introduce him to the sweet life, Scandinavian style. Picture debutante parties and summer houses in Swedish equivalent of Highlands. Not surprisingly, one of the girls goes sweet on him.
Time for a reality check: JW moonlights as a cab driver to make ends meet. And that’s how he gets drawn into a drug-dealing world he thinks he has by the string. Of course, as he will inevitably learn, they’ve got him by, well, his privates.
Director Daniel Espinosa, who did Denzel Washington’s “Safe House” earlier this year, knows how to keep things swift and vicious. Almost without thinking, JW is brought into their sphere. He pulls off a risky rescue. They are appreciative and attentive.
So, when he offers a to set up a money laundering scheme to take care of a huge drug shipment already on its way, they are almost worshipful. Sure, they’re tough guys, but he’s doing them a special favor. Using his superior education. Teaching these killers something
And all goes well…until… it doesn’t. The ending is as violent and blood-drenched as “The Krays” or “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” or “Layer Cake,” a mob mash-up that starred Daniel Craig before he ordered his first shaken martini.
One of the most fascinating aspects of “Easy Money” is its multicultural milieu. Swedes, Turks, Arabs, Serbs — all have a hand in the piggy bank. That JW thinks he can fit in with them as effortlessly as he does Stockholm’s jet set is misguided at best. “Passing” is one thing; Putting up or shutting up is quite another.
Character is fate, just like the Greeks said. Lie down with dogs like these and you don’t get up with fleas. You just don’t get up.