Prefixed with a ‘presented by Martin Scorsese’ credit, it’s easy to see why the fabled director would put his weight behind this film. Much like the similarly-themed work from his filmography, Easy Money also captures the less than glamorous side of the criminal profession. Essentially, this is a three-hander, with the characters hailing from very different worlds, all sharing a common goal of escaping their current circumstances. Jorge (Matias Varela) is a Chilean immigrant who has fled from imprisonment and is looking to pull off a huge drug deal which will guarantee his passage out of Sweden. Brutal Serbian mob enforcer Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic) is on Jorge’s tale, but finds himself suddenly sidetracked by having to take sole custody of his young daughter.
About to become entwined in both of their lives is student JW (Joel Kinnaman). Hailing from the working-class regions of the north, he has become enamoured by the wealthy world of his college friends. In order to climb the social ladder, he lends his business skills to the criminal world in return for the money to maintain the lifestyle he is increasingly becoming accustomed to. Falling in love with a girl from that circle doesn’t help the situation, and JW gets deeper into a drugs shipment which also has serious ramifications for the lives of Mrado and Jorge.
Watching Easy Money, it isn’t difficult to see why Espinosa was enthusiastically snapped up by the US. He shows real confidence behind the camera, and draws the viewer right into the action from the first frame (Jorge’s prison break has a wonderful matter-of-fact spontaneity). The urgency and immediacy of the handheld camera style recalls the sterling work found in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s debut, Amores Perros, and like that world, we also see a three-dimensional, human side to the lawless figures here.
Kinnaman (familiar to many through his starring role in the American remake of Danish television series, The Killing) is an appealing lead. Even when dealing in some pretty nefarious activity, he manages to keep the audience on his side throughout. Both Varela and Mrsic also bring much-needed shading and nuance to their characters.
The film loses a little momentum towards the end when the lead-up to the enviable smuggling showdown is stretched out a little too much, but this is merely a small blimp in an otherwise intelligent and classy crime drama. Propelled by a pulsating Cliff Martinez-like electro score, Easy Money will have you gripped until the end. Let’s hope the two follow ups see the distribution light of day sooner than part one.