An intelligent Swedish thriller packing a lot of punch
- Easy Money review by Philip in Paradiso
Johan Westlund (or JW) is a business-school student in Stockholm who moves about in upper-class circles. He comes from the north of the country and a fairly ordinary middle-class family, but he likes to pretend he has money and pays a lot of attention to his appearance (particularly the way that he dresses). He enjoys the upmarket parties and weekends away that he gets invited to. But he needs money, and his part-time job as a taxi driver is not enough. When Abdelkarim, an Arab man who runs the taxi firm JW works part-time for, offers him a well-paid one-off job, JW agrees. This leads him into dangerous territory, involving organized crime - Middle Eastern drug traffickers who are in league with Albanian and Latin American crime syndicates. The situation is further complicated due to the fact an ultra-violent, local Serbian gang wants its cut of the flow of illegal drugs and is prepared to do anything to get it.
This could be yet another thriller but it is much more than that. It does have all the ingredients of the Scandinavian thriller genre: tension, suspense, violence, manipulation, misgivings, calculations and surprises. But it also has strong, complex and interesting characters: the men featured in the story all have their dreams, and dream of getting out of a life of crime. They feel real and are portrayed in an intelligent way. What is also very interesting is the depiction of Swedish society: it clearly is a class society (not dissimilar to England, in fact), with 'old money' and a traditional Swedish upper-class at the top, not devoid of arrogance and a sense of entitlement, the lower orders of society further down and, finally, ethnic minorities - from the Middle East or the Balkans - at the margins. At the centre of this stratified, pyramidal structure is JW: all the social contradictions and conflicting dreams that form the background to the movie are concentrated in this smart, cynical young Swede, who dreams of money, success, recognition and dating beautiful upper-class girls. To get all of this quickly, he is prepared to do anything, and yet, he clings on to a sense of decency that gets repeatedly challenged by the circumstances. But there is no 'easy money' to be had, and there is a price to pay when you take short-cuts.
Overall, this is an excellent, fast-paced film, within the parameters of the 'noir' genre, but it goes beyond the obvious and presents a dark story that has depth, which I found captivating.
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