VOD film review: Easy Money II: Hard to Kill
James R | On 10, Apr 2014
Director: Babak Najafi
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Dragomir Mrsic
Watch Easy Money 2 online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Joel Kinnaman returns to the role of JW in Easy Money II: Hard to Kill – the sequel to Easy Money (or Snabba Cash). The first was released in UK cinemas, but the second heads straight to DVD and VOD this week. You’d think that makes it inferior, but make no mistake: this has lost none of the original thriller’s hard-hitting punch. In fact, it might even be better.
Fresh from learning first-hand that money really isn’t easy, wannabe rich boy JW (Kinnaman again) is stuck in prison with Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic, also returning). Finally eligible for unsupervised leave, he spends his time pulling a Shawshank and doing the guards’ tax returns – before meeting an old college friend with whom he has designed a piece of trading software. Money, it seems, is easy after all.
But this is no celebratory caper: director Daniel Espinosa may have handed over the reins, but the series’ cruel irony hasn’t left its title. Soon enough, JW is back in the shadowy Stockholm underbelly, caught between former ally Jorge (Matias Varela), big pin Radovan, and indebted Mahmoud (Fares Fares).
What follows is a deceptively simple crossing of paths – one man in possession of drug-filled rubber ducks, one in possession of money and another in dire need of it. Easy Money’s skill was in turning that inevitable collision into a seemingly labyrinthine maze – albeit one that, amid the gruff bad guys and grim good guys, was missing the guiding thread of sympathy. Easy Money 2 inherits that knack, playing JW’s slide back into crime as tragically unavoidable.
“You’re at the point of no return,” warns Mrado, whose daughter from the first film is now out of his reach. Theis Schmidt’s editing keeps cutting forward during these conversations, showing us glimpses of the bloody end we’re hurtling towards. He and DoP Aril Wretblad reprise their roles from the first film, but director Babak Najafi also makes his mark with an eye for Stockholm’s steely windows and cold reflections.
While Easy Money 2 carries on the series’ harsh atmosphere, though, it finds the heart that the first film lacked. JW initially was undone by his own aspiration. Here, though, he is a victim of the upper classes, who take from those below without sharing; he gets through prison fine, it’s coming out and trying to go straight that ruins him.
Kinnaman remains excellent in the lead, seething with the kind of anger that reminds you why he was cast as Robocop, while the now-crippled Dragomir Mrsic proves a more likeable supporting presence now that we’re familiar with his backstory. For those who have seen part one, it’s a genuine pleasure to spent more time with both men.
Their story stands up on its own, though, thanks to the still-pertinent themes of inequality and greed. Kinnaman’s transformation, meanwhile, delivers a satisfying conclusion despite the cliffhanger required to set up the third part of the trilogy – a character-driven climax that, like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, avoids middle-film syndrome. As his downtrodden drug runner descends deeper into immorality, the film becomes a gripping portrait of a man who finds himself past the point of no return – and embraces it.
Money? Yes, that can be easy. Society, on the other hand, is hard.