Now that Joel Kinnaman has gone from rising (The Killing) to rocketing star (the lead in the upcoming RoboCop remake), the movie that first planted him on the map in Sweden in 2010 is finally being released here. But Easy Money is not merely an early-career curiosity. It’s one of the best underworld films I’ve seen in years, and Kinnaman gives a fantastic performance in it. He plays a sleekly brilliant business-school student named JW, who is using his good looks and canny minimalist manner to ingratiate himself into a clique of jet-setters. They’re the sexy aristocracy of Stockholm, and he wants to be one of them. But he’s not: He’s a guy from the provinces who still feels like a poseur. So when the opportunity arises to become the front for a drug deal, he grabs it. He figures he can launder cash and keep his own hands clean.
Big mistake. Directed by Daniél Espinosa (who went on to make Safe House), Easy Money is full of arresting cutthroats. It traces the intersecting fates of an Arab cocaine posse, a Serbian thug (Dragomir Mrsic) with a young daughter, and the nastier-than-he-looks weasel (Matias Padin Varela) who’s crashing in JW’s apartment. But at the center of this busy, highly unpredictable movie is an echo of Michael Corleone’s journey: Kinnaman — now innocent, now calculating, now sputtering with dread — makes JW an ordinary and even moral man who crosses a line of blood, without realizing what will happen when it splashes on him. A