Review: ‘Easy Money: Hard to Kill’ is a sequel to an original you didn’t see

Joel Kinnaman is hard to kill while out for easy money in "Easy Money: Hard to Kill." Credit: Cinedigm
Joel Kinnaman is hard to kill while out for easy money in “Easy Money: Hard to Kill.”
Credit: Cinedigm

‘Easy Money: Hard to Kill’
Director: Babak Najafi
Stars: Joel Kinnaman, Dragomir Mrsic
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

In its homeland, the Swedish thriller “Easy Money” is a box office juggernaut that’s spawned two sequels and helped cement Joel Kinnaman as a hunky, lanky sex god. In America, the first one bombed, though it’s (allegedly) getting remade with Zac Efron. The sequel, “Easy Money: Hard to Kill” — whose title ambitiously crams together both a Rodney Dangerfield vehicle and a Steven Seagal classic — is likely only appearing because Kinnaman (also star of “The Killing”) headlines the new “RoboCop.”

For those not in the know, here’s the story thus far: Kinnaman is JW, an economics student who very, very stupidly joins up with the drug trade so he can live like a Tom Ripley rich kid. It didn’t go so well, as they don’t. But he wasn’t killed, and “Hard to Kill” begins with him in jail, sharing a cell with fellow first film co-lead Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic), a Serbian hit man with a little girl back home. JW is released, only to find himself screwed over by his business partner. His reputation blemished due to his prison time, he decides to double down on stupidity, getting involved with a satchel of money that’s being kicked around between various underworld dwellers.

Also involved, though JW doesn’t know it, is the first’s third character: heavily tattooed Jorge (Matias Padin Verela), a Chilean lifer who finds his toughness compromised when he saves a young hooker from her fearsome pimp. The two stories keep threatening to collide, though, like the first “Easy Money” outing, it takes a long time to get to the good stuff. The plotting is needlessly labyrinthine only to reveal that it’s actually, almost insultingly simple.

But the “good stuff” isn’t that good, especially because this turns out to be a middle chapter in a trilogy. (The third film came out back home last year.) Like the second “Hunger Games,” it basically stops mid-sentence. It’s a cruel cliffhanger that appears just when we were finally getting semi-involved. Has anything but raw plot been burned here? JW does find himself deeper into a scene he has no business being in, and the film seems to think of this as similar to Al Pacino’s descent in “The Godfather: Part II.” That doesn’t make it so.

“Hard to Kill” lacks the minimal personality that director Daniel Espinosa brought to the first. There were character details and an empathy for its three leads. This is mostly spinning plates, as well as spinning wheels. As he intended, Espinosa proceeded to Hollywood, helming the Denzel picture “Safe House.” “Hard to Kill” director Babak Najafi surely intends the same, but one needs more in one’s arsenal than herky-jerking the camera. If we want to see where part three goes, it’s only because part two has no ending.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge


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