Daniel Espinosa's quintessentially European "Easy Money" is damn complicated (which makes sense given its origins as one part of a three-novel series), but it comes to be exceptionally engrossing due to the three main performances that drive the film. That makes the fact that the film is open-ended and incomplete all the more disappointing, with a letdown of a climactic scene. But while the film seemed to be heading for higher and higher ground, I was near completely enraptured. Matias Verela, Dragomir Mrsic, and especially Joel Kinnaman hold the screen with great intensity and vulnerability, and it's too bad that the filmmakers couldn't hold up on their end.
A whole lot happens in "Easy Money," but not a lot of what you'd call "action." Looking back, it's hard to believe how simultaneously absorbing and empty this movie is. A lot of the pathos is cheap, but it works to pin you to your seat while you wait for the next plateau. Business student JW (Kinnaman) tries his best to look affluent (convincing a lot of people with some tricky maneuvers), but in actuality he lives in student housing and wants better. He has a woman who loves him also (Lisa Henni as Sophie), but he's inexperienced with women and cares much more for monetary compensation. Escaped prisoner Jorge (Verela) has a pregnant sister to worry about. And Mrado (Mrsic) comes to understand the importance of being a father to his eight-year-old girl. All three of these men are involved in different ways in a cocaine ring: Jorge has the connection to his cousin that sets it in motion, JW has the money smarts to make the financial end work, and Mrado is a third party who wants in one way or another.
When push comes to shove, I don't think this is really a fulfilling movie. There's a lot of extraneous detail and weird filler (a missing sister, an anecdote about someone chopped in half inside an elevator), some of which probably was developed in more detail in a) the source material or b) its sequels. But it has some moving and emotionally involving moments, and a lot of strong facial acting (Kinnaman in a scene where he's forced to do something unspeakable is harrowing). It's a mixed and not entirely satisfying bag for sure, but definitely an involving one. B-