By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Hollywood executives just love watching original foreign flicks, because their passion for the art form, genuine respect for new perspectives, yadda, yadda, yadda. Okay, nobody’s fooling anyone- they just love to pilfer. Usually, this takes the form of Hollywood“remakes” of successful foreign language properties, but in the case of Snabba Cash, they basically strip everything but the frame.
And the cassette deck. Surprisingly little demand for those these days
Not only are we getting that remake, but director Daniel Espinosa recently made his way into the studio system with the pretty damn underrated Safe House, and Joel Kinnaman is starring in everything from AMC’s The Killing to the new Robocop. Also, Snabba Cash, retitled as the much less awesome Easy Money, is also getting its own limited theatrical release in the States two years after it was made.
The movie follows an ambitious, social climbing college student who finds the best way to get the cash he needs to keep up his rich boy persona is to get involved with some seedy small-time criminals. When the opportunity for more serious, drug-smuggling related business falls into his lap, he dives in, and then everyone lives happily ever after.
That’s what usually happens in these stories, right?
Joel Kinnaman does a great job playing the protagonist, making his mix of intelligence and naivety completely believable without ever causing you to stop rooting for the poor bastard. A smart script helps him out with this, and is never better than when it is comparing and contrasting the posh life he aspires to with the criminal underworld he gets wrapped up in. Eventually his smarts get recognized to the degree that he is tasked with purchasing a small, failing bank to use as a large-scale money launderer, which beautifully juxtaposes white collar crime with, I don’t know, grey-collar?
Pimp collar? That’s not right…
Anyway, Kinnamin’s big mistake, and the movie’s overriding theme, is that what works in one world doesn’t necessarily translate to another, and being the most intelligent guy in the room doesn’t make you the smartest.
Daniel Espinosa uses a unique and often beautiful shooting style to frame this story. The camera is always moving and often close, accentuating the stifling, constricting nature of the character’s situation even before he recognizes it. Espinosa and his DP also use the sun to great affect, and many of their shots are almost frame-worthy.
You can see why Hollywood fell in love with Espinosa. His style is unique, but also quite commercial. He actually progresses nicely with it in Safe House, but in this flick his love for gimmick shots and techniques can get a bit excessive.
I almost want to give a beer to how laughably escapable Swedish jail appears to be in the film’s beginning, but I’ll leave open the possibility that the Swedes have an open-door policy that works fine for them.
Because who’d ever want to leave Swedish prison?
Nope, I have to give a beer instead to the film’s pacing. The story takes quite awhile to cohere, and the slow-developing, mystery-prolonging nature of the first hour or so can get frustrating. For some films, this works beautifully, but when all the pieces fall into place in Snabba Cash, it’s hard to see the justification for withholding so much so long. A little tightening and a mite bit more exposition would have helped a lot.
The talents involved in this are still developing, but the potential they show make up plenty for this film’s small shortcomings. Give this good-looking crime saga a watch and see what it did to get Hollywood all up in a lather about it.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time money changes hands
Take a Drink: every time the global financial crisis is mentioned
Do a Shot: every time Jorge gets out of a tough situation much easier than he should have (like prison)