2010 film Easy Money was a runaway hit in Sweden (so much so that a US remake with Zac Efron is in the works). The film, based on the novel of the same name by Jens Lapidus, centred on Stockholm’s gangland wars, with multiple stories of the descent into darkness culminating in one fatal, climactic event. Easy Money: Hard to Kill shows the aftermath of that event, and the vice-like grip that the criminal world has on a person, and how when it draws you in, it never lets you go.
JW (Joel Kinnaman) is serving time in prison, along with Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic), who is paralysed from the waist down after JW shot him during their previous heist. Having developed a financial trading software program whilst in prison, JW is scammed by his former friend and escapes whilst on day release from prison, and when Mrado breaks out the two men decide to pull one last heist before disappearing from Stockholm. Jorge (Matias Varela) is still on the run, and is butting heads with Serbian crime boss Radovan (Dejan Čukić) over a cocaine deal. His friend and former associate Mahmoud (Fares Fares) is under his own pressure from Radovan, and is forced to betray Jorge to settle his debt. All three stories come to a head with Radovan as the centrepiece of it all, and not everyone comes out alive.
It’s interesting that a sequel was made to Easy Money – the first film was great, but would have worked perfectly well as a stand alone film. I was worried heading into this that Easy Money: Hard to Kill would cheapen the first film (as mediocre sequels often do), and the change in directors from Daniel Espinosa to Babak Najafi did little to settle that feeling; but I shouldn’t have been worried, as the sequel more than carries over the quality of the first film. While the film takes its first twenty to thirty minutes at a slower pace, Najafi uses this time to set up the pieces on the chess board for a ruthless game. Easy Money: Hard to Kill is roughly 30 minutes shorter than its predecessor, and this helps keep the film tight and the action travelling at breakneck speed. The editing was genius: every now and again there will be small flash-forwards, keeping the audience one step ahead of the characters and yet always leaving us wanting more. The technique is a great way to keep us on the edge of our seats – and Easy Money: Hard to Kill certainly does that.
Whilst Joel Kinnaman is still billed as the star of the film, more screen time goes to the stories of Jorge and Mahmoud. Matias Varela is fantastic and adds much more emotional depth to Jorge than seen in the first film. Fares’ Mahmoud is greatly expanded upon, and this expansion helps to keep the overbearing presence of Radovan as omnipotent and ever-present. Kinnaman still does well as JW, with the perpetually open wound of his sister’s disappearance at the forefront of his story. All of the major actors do a fantastic job of conveying the desperate attempts of these men to escape their criminal lifestyles, and the crushing realisation that their escape will never happen.
Easy Money: Hard to Kill is a great addition to the franchise and keeps up the tension, character depth and development, and fast-paced and exciting plot of the first film. The film’s editing style and shorter run time help keep it tight and keep the audience glued to the screen and strapped in for the ride.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Easy Money: Hard to Kill will screen alongside Easy Money and Easy Money 3 as part of the Scandinavian Film Festival, touring Australia in July. For more details head HERE.