There’s no such thing as easy money, something actor Joel Kinnaman learned back in 2010 when he starred in Daniel Espinosa’s fairly well received crime thriller aptly titled, you guessed it – Easy Money. Instead of finding riches, Mr. Kinnaman found a jail sentence and heartbreak, leading into Babak Najafi’s direct sequel, Easy Money: Hard To Kill – the second movie in this now three film franchise. Although we’re working with a new director and a newer team, Babak still keeps the same thrilling focus that made Espinosa’s original film so intriguing, but our new story also plays it safe by working with most of the same characters. Again, there’s no such thing as easy money, but when you mirror a successful formula, you’ve still got it pretty damn easy.
Picking up as JW (Joel Kinnaman) is nearing the end of his jail sentence, where he’s kindled a friendly relationship with Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic), everything seems to be coming together. Developing software that could change the financial market, JW partners with a friend from college who scores a sweet deal with a venture capitalist, suggesting that millions maybe await both of them. Unfortunately for JW, his partner has different ideas, stealing the software and leaving him out in the cold. Back to square one, JW strikes a new plan with Mrado, a plan that could become overly complicated as other familiar criminals hatch parallel schemes – all of which have the potential of crossing. Mahmoud (Fares Fares) is still struggling as an underling, Jorge (Matias Varela) has drugs to push, Radovan (Dejan Cukic) gets bossy – spelling nothing but trouble.
It’s hard to hate on Easy Money: Hard To Kill because this thriller’s intentions are in the right place. Fans of the original get an update on the lives of so many past characters, there are numerous plots hurdling chaotically towards one another, Joel Kinnaman rivals his role in Robocop, and audiences are presented with an easily palatable experience. Genre-bending? Not really, our story happens in real time and avoids any Tarantino non-linear storytelling. Epic action? Babak Najafi doesn’t stray far from typical suspense thrillers where deaths are swift and rarely staged for exaggerated fun. Anything new at all? Drugs are involved, people are betrayed, lives are lost – everything that comes along with breaking the law and getting involved with shady figures. Outside-of-the-box thinking certainly isn’t this sequel’s strength.
With that said, certainty isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Think about a rollercoaster – aren’t they all the same? Sure, they come in different shapes, sizes, and colors, but they all contain the same excitement – speed, loops, and any other angular contortions. Do we stop riding? Hell no. We get the same thrills, but one rollercoaster may loop immediately while another one loops after a minute of zipping around – how different, I know! Well, Easy Money: Hard To Kill is the same type of scenario. We’ve all seen drug deals gone horribly awry, we’ve seen sleazy businessmen shaft hard-working men, we’ve seen lowlives cheat and steal just to pay off a deadly debt – but when presented in a different cinematic package, one that understands the simple charms of a thriller, enjoying the ride becomes effortless.
With that said, Easy Money: Hard To Kill is not free of moments that prevent total enjoyment. Certain characters are meant to be unlikable, endangering friends and partners for no reason, but their antics tend to create frustration instead of drama. Also, with so many characters, choppily jumping around between story arcs becomes overwhelming, and while Najafi treats Easy Money fans to closure and familiarity, all the context becomes a little overambitious. I feel like we barely got enough of JW’s story to stay invested, yet his woes become front and center material. Variety is the spice of life, but with so many flavors fighting for dominance, there’s no smooth blending into one integrated, exquisite taste.
Easy Money fans are going to have no qualms about shelling some greenbacks for Easy Money: Hard To Kill. Babak Najafi doesn’t take any real risks, sticking with a mentality that refuses to fix something if it isn’t broken, but what’s the problem with consistency as long as it’s thrilling, fun, and mysterious? Thanks to our director, action thriller fans know exactly what they’ll be getting, providing a safe watch for when you’re not in the mood to gamble on the next hidden gem/disguised stinker.
Easy Money: Hard To Kill is a safe follow-up for fans of the original, bringing back familiar characters while mirroring the same thrilling tone.