Production compaines: Nordisk Film
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Producer: Fredrik Wikstrom
Screenwriter: Maria Karlsson
Starring: Matias Padin as Jorge, Dragomir Mrsic as Mrado, Lisa Henni as Sophie, Mahmut Suvakci as Abdulkarim, Jones Danko as Fahdi, Lea Stojanov as Lovisa, Dejan Čukić as Radovan, Joel Kinnaman as Johan 'JW' Westlund, Fares Fares as Mahmoud, Camilo Alanis as Carlos
It has taken a few years for this Swedish crime thriller to break out internationally. In fact, two sequels have already been made. Despite the rather standard plot and characters, this is stylish, punchy filmmaking. Leading man Joel Kinnaman is now a global star thanks to The Killing, and he's about to play RoboCop in a remake.
Kinnaman plays JW, a poor but smart guy who reinvents himself at university as someone who's posh and well-connected. But a sexy new girlfriend (Henni) has no idea that he has actually made his cash working for a local Arab gangster (Suvakci). When word emerges that Latino drug dealer Jorge (Varela) has escaped from prison, JW is sent to make a deal with him in exchange for his contact list. But a rival Serbian thug (Cukic) also wants to get his hands on Jorge, so he sends his muscled goon Mrado (Mrsic). And as the two gangs become locked in a battle, JW, Mrado and Jorge realise that they're just pawns in a bigger war.
The film centres on these three lower-level tough guys, adding one personal detail to each: JW deceiving his girlfriend and her family, Mrado suddenly having to take responsibility for his 8-year-old daughter (Stojanov), Jorge trying to help his pregnant sister (Whittembury). These details help add a personal level to the violent action, but all three of the female characters are thinly defined stereotypes, so the emotional connections never quite ring true. Much more interesting is the male bonding between these three men who don't remotely trust each other.
But then, no one in this film trusts anyone, and they're all willing to sell out their mother for more cash. Yes, this is a cautionary tale about out-of-control greed. And what makes it interesting is the creeping desperation these men feel as they realise that this probably won't end happily. Director Espinosa (who went on to make 2012's Safe House with Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds and Kinnaman) gives the film a blast of energetic coolness that just about makes up for the cliched plot. With a better script, this might be one of those rare Euro-thrillers that improves with an American remake.