DVD Review: Easy Money

THE SET-UP
A poor Swedish business college student (Joel Kinnaman) tries to mingle with high society, and becomes entangled with the criminal underworld in an attempt to find wealth. Also stars Matias Padin Varela and Dragomir Mrsic.
Directed by Daniel Espinosa

THE DELIVERY
This 2010 Swedish import has earned quite a reputation in America through bootlegs and film festivals over the years, but it finally gets an American DVD release in 2013 thanks to Anchor Bay and the Weinstein Company. The reputation is well-deserved; Easy Money is an excellent crime drama with some outstanding performances.

Unlike most American films, Easy Money (known as Snabba Cash in Sweden) does not rely on gunplay to advance the plot or create tension. Sure, there are shootouts and action to spare, but they are used to create a sense of real danger, not to exhilarate and entertain. Director Daniel Espinoza instead crafts an excellent tale with three multi-layered characters. These are no mafia caricatures that we often see in most crime films. Each character is well-developed and their motivations are laid bare. You understand why they react the way they do, and it makes the story much more riveting.

The trio of characters are no heroes, but deeply flawed characters each looking for their own redemption and vindication. JW, the poor college student trying to fit in with high society, is expertly portrayed by Joel Kinnaman, and gives his character all the charisma it needs with a tinge of desperation. He makes all the wrong decisions in an effort to make the money he needs to join the monied elite.

Mrado, a Serbian crime boss played by Dragomir Mrsic, is on the hunt for Jorge (Matias Padin Varela), an escaped convict the Sebian mob wants dead. As if that doesn’t complicate things enough, Mrado is now having to look after his young daughter, which causes a crisis of conscience over his life of crime. Jorge can’t help his criminal ways but still wants to do the right thing for his pregnant sister, the only real family he has left. When JW takes in Jorge (which will lead to a big payday for him), the problems of all three intersect with disastrous results.

Easy Money is a surprisingly gripping tale, and the performances propel a great human drama that looks like a crime thriller. It would be great if all American crime films were this smart, but untill then, we’lll always have Sweden.

VIDEO AND AUDIO
The standard DVD features a solid, if unspectacular, video transfer. The film does feature some natural skin tones, but also shows a bit of grain in many shots. Detail is good, but not fantastic. Audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix from the original Swedish soundtrack, with English subtitles. Music is used to nice effect here, often starting low and building as the tension rises. 

SPECIAL FEATURES
None. It’s too bad, as fans of the film would have surely wanted to see some extras about the production. 

Easy-Money 

THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Ratings (1-10 scale)
Movie: 8
Video: 7
Audio: 7
Extras: 1
Overall Grade: 5.75

Easy Money is one of the best crime dramas in recent years. The DVD release features a decent technical transfer, but the lack of extras brings the final grade down. It doesn’t mean you should pass on this disc. It’s a fantastic movie, and well worth a rent. At the right price, it could be worth buying, but not at the retail price of $24.98. If you can get it for under $15, it is a worthy addition to your film collection.

DVD SPECS
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Running time: 125 minutes
Rating: R
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: Swedish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: Swedish language with English and Spanish subtitles
Special features: None

Click here to order Easy Money on DVD from Amazon!