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Easy Money: Hard to Kill
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by Jay Seaver

"Nothing easy about the money in this fine Scandinavian noir."
4 stars

"Snabba Cash II" was released under the title "Easy Money: Hard to Kill" in the US last week a year and a half after it played in Sweden. This choice of date and title apparently driven by a hope that American audiences would want more of star Joel Kinnaman right away after seeing the "RoboCop" remake, wanting to get the attention of the folks who saw the original "Easy Money" movie during its US release but not wanting to reveal it as a sequel to the rest of the population. The cold reality that the title of the original Jens Lapidus novel that serves as the source material, "Never Fuck Up", just would not fly with theaters, was likely also a factor. Whatever the thinking, it got onto a few screens alongside its Video On Demand release, and it's good crime whether you've seen the first one or not.

It's been three years since the end of Snabba Cash, and while Jorge (Matias Varela) is still on the loose, he's returning to Stockholm to visit his dying mother. JW (Kinnaman) is about to have his first unsupervised release from prison, and he has a meeting scheduled so that he and his old classmate Nippe (Joel Spira) can demonstrate a potentially lucrative high-velocity trading safeguard he developed while behind bars, sharing a cell with Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic) - the Serbian gangster holding no grudge against him. Elsewhere in Stockholm, Jorge's friend Mahmoud (Fares Fares) is deep in debt to Radovan (Dejan Cukic), the boss who came out on top last time, but he's got a way Mahmoud can pay it off.

Radovan's business interests include prostitution, which is where Nadja (Madeleine Martin) enters the story, which has at times started to resemble the first one a little too closely at times, what with Jorge being hunted and JW stuck between the legitimate and criminal worlds again. Lisa Henni makes a repeat appearance as JW's girlfriend, helping to create direct ties between the two movies even though it appears the books in Lapidus's "Stockholm Noir" trilogy were more loosely connected. Even without having seen the first movie, though, this is a good crime story set-up, with multiple plots advancing nicely until it finally becomes clear how they are on a collision course. Those plots are not complicated, but they've got a brute-force simplicity that speaks to the immediacy of the characters' troubles.

That simplicity and those troubles are at the heart of what makes Snabba Cash II such an impressive bit of this Stockholm noir; the characters dig themselves into terrible holes and compromise themselves further with every step. That's especially true in the case of Mahmoud, a bit player in the first film who takes center stage here. Mahmoud's downfall is tragic and sadder at each step, and Fares Fares is a standout in portraying it, both physically powerful and weak in character, an always believable tragic figure.

The rest of the cast comes out strong, too - Joel Kinnaman has the biggest roller coaster ride, showing JW as having rebuilt himself inside prison only to be crushed once out, hitting some of the same beats as in the prior movie but with an increasing pessimism replacing defiance. Dragomir Mrsic plays Mrado as humbled by paralysis but still full of criminal wisdom, while Matias Varela captures just how unmoored Jorge is in this situation. Madeleine Martin is a fine addition to the ensemble as Nadja, not quite fearless in her desperation but with a welcome female take on the same forces pushing the men.

Babak Najafi takes the helm this time around, although he inherits much of the same crew to work on the first. It's got a somewhat different feel, though, less fly-on-the-wall and more polished, though still with plenty of rough edges to grab onto. He's following a slow spiral downward rather than just waiting around for the bottom to fall out, and that gives him a little more room to do some solid action sequences, although the staging at times looks a little odd (from the reactions of some of the extras, you'd think car crashes with associated gunfire happen all the time in Stockholm).

I must admit, I rather liked this sequel a bit more than the original, even if that's the one that gets a few more points for style. Either way, both are solid bits of Scandinavian crime, and I only hope that the adaptation of "Life Deluxe" (which opened in Sweden for in December of 2013) is just as good and, if so, makes its way to America more quickly than its predecessors.

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originally posted: 02/24/14 16:44:22
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  DVD: 11-Mar-2014



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