February 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: Separate stories collide in violent 'Easy Money: Hard to Kill'

In this sequel to 'Easy Money' the lead character,JW, (Joel Kinnaman) learns that once you've walked in the shoes of a criminal there just may be no going back. (Cinedigm)

“Easy Money: Hard to Kill” is one of those collision-course movies where seemingly disparate storylines come together violently.

The first sequel to the huge Swedish hit “Easy Money,” it stars Joel Kinnaman (“Robocop,” “The Killing”) as JW, in his third year of prison and about to be let out on a leave for good behavior.

While imprisoned, he has bonded with Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic), whom he previously shot and put in a wheelchair. Prison apparently heals all wounds, or at least Swedish prison does.

Meanwhile, a man named Jorge (Matias Varela) is in the process of pulling off a $10 million drug deal. And a pathetic weasel named Mahmoud (Fares Fares) has been reduced to stealing money from his sister’s wedding to pay off a huge debt.

These are all characters from “Easy Money,” but no prior knowledge of them is required. Director and co-writer Babak Najafi gets his trains barreling toward one another efficiently.

In fact, the slowest-moving storyline, at least at first, is JW’s. College-educated and bright, he has spent his time in prison developing financial software and expects to sell it while out on leave. But in this kind of movie, nothing goes as intended.

Soon enough, JW finds himself betrayed and in trouble; if he returns to prison it will be for a long time. So with Mrado’s help he comes up with a plan.

Jorge has a plan as well. So does Mahmoud. All of these plans intersect in mostly bloody and costly ways. Money, it turns out, isn’t so easy. And not everybody is hard to kill.

Thin, intense and yet somehow cool, Kinnaman is on his way to stardom, and it’s easy to see how these movies gave him lift off. This is a tough, crackling crime story, well-executed and tense throughout.

'Easy Money: Hard to Kill'

GRADE: B

Not rated

Running time: 99 minutes

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