Easy Money III: Life Deluxe (Snabba cash – Livet deluxe)

Sweden (2013) Dir. Jens Jonsson

As the title informs us this is the third and final film in the Easy Money trilogy based on the novels by Jens Lapidus. It has been a funny old ride largely because each film has had a different director, creating a palpably uneven feel across the series.

Life Deluxe is set quite a while after the events of the second film and is once again a series of intertwining storylines which eventually converge into one. Jorge (Matias Varela) is out of prison and trying to start afresh, even planning to settle down with an old flame Naja (Madeleine Martin) whom he meets in his new job. But for this he needs money so he plans the biggest heist Swedish history.

Meanwhile Serbian crime boss Radovan (Dejan Cukic) is the victim of an assassination attempt which has him question who should take over his empire once he goes. There are three choices: his second-in-command Stefanovic (Cedomir Djordjevic), his daughter Natalie (Malin Buska) or the newest member of his group who saved Radovan’s life, Martin (Martin Wallstrom). What Radovan doesn’t know is that Martin is an undercover cop sent to bring the crime boss down.

I don’t know if this is down to Lapidus or director Jens Jonsson who co-wrote the script with screenwriter Maria Karlsson, but there are a number of clichéd story threads here. Not that the first two films were overflowing with completely original ideas but they did at least put some fresh twists on familiar concepts, this film has the unfortunate handicap of providing the viewer with a veritable check list of crime thriller plots that have been played out numerous times within the genre.

Heading the list is the undercover cop angle which is awkwardly executed insofar as the reveal comes early in the second act with nary any interaction between Martin and his police superiors shown prior to this to suggest the idea. To be fair it is a difficult line to throw as it can either run for the whole film and be a twist or it needs explaining upfront as a key aspect of the plot, as is it here.

But what makes this one fall flat is that we know straightaway that Martin doesn’t fit in with any crime scene, his undercover role being staff at the gym where Radovan trains an MMA fighter. Once he is part of the gang he undergoes an image change which is also so blatant that it is amazing no-one spotted him sooner.

Jorge’s “one last job” is another tried and tested storyline which recalls his role in the first film only this time he is in charge. Of course once Naja shows up you know this can go one of two ways – the job goes smoothly and Jorge is tracked down in his new life by old enemies; or Jorge encounters trouble straightaway with Naja caught in the middle.

No spoilers but the situation Jorge finds himself in isn’t clearly explained, least of all the enemy he has to face unless I missed something which is entirely possible with the way the film randomly jumps from one story to the next just as it is hitting a peak. Juggling three stories at once isn’t easy and it takes a skilled director to keep the balance right – Jonsson seems a little ill-equipped to handle this task.

Another issue which will stand out for anyone who was watched the first two films is the presence of Johan “JW” Westlund (Joel Kinnaman), the main protagonist in both cases. His role is reduced to roughly six minutes of screen time and little dialogue although he does play a pivotal part in the main story which makes for a nice twist in the final act.

JW is now living in exile and is searching for his missing sister Camilla (Maja Christenson Kin), whom he learns is dead, having last worked as an exotic dancer and being courted by someone he knows very well (and I am sure you can also guess who that is). Aside from the final twist this thread is largely forgotten for the most part but its unexpected relevance is arguably the strongest part of the script.

Aside from this final twist, JW’s thread is rendered largely irrelevant thus could have been excised from the script entirely – after all the film is 127 minutes long and has enough to concentrate its time on as it is. This is interesting as the first film was over two hours long yet the second film was just over 90 minutes and all the better for it, making it seem like the filling in a chunky bread sandwich.

This is Jens Jonsson’s second feature length film, his CV made up mostly of short films and TV mini-series. While he certainly can put together a decent shootout, there is little in the way of any distinctive flourishes or signs of his own identity as a director. Too many shots and camera angles have been directly lifted from the genre textbook, the only break from this being during the violent moments.

Benefitting from the main cast – Matias Varela, Dejan Cukic and Joel Kinnaman – returning to reprise their roles, the newcomers are left to figure out their characters from scratch with mixed results. The performances from Malin Buska and Martin Wallstrom are solid but the confused script leaves them undefined and hard for the audience to gauge their personalities.

It feels a little churlish to be too hard on Easy Money III: Life Deluxe as it is a perfectly serviceable crime thriller if you are looking for something to pass the time. While it is a conclusive end to the trilogy, it deserves a more coherent and concentrated story in the hands of a more experienced director to make this final journey truly worthwhile.  


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