Snabba Cash review: easy money is hard to find

The Swedish feature film “Snabba Cash”, or “Easy Money“, was popular enough here after its release in 2010 that it caught the interest of Hollywood studios and an American remake was planned with Zac Efron. That hasn’t happened yet, but there were two sequels with the return of Joel Kinnaman (from AMC’s “The Killing”) and now a Swedish-language series on Netflix that doesn’t look like the original at all, except perhaps where it matters most: at the intersection of crime and business, and the intersection of crime and immigration.

Snabba Cash

Wednesday, Netflix

Reflecting the times – and the 10-year gap that’s supposed to exist between the events of the film trilogy and this new six-part Netflix Original – immigrants to Sweden are no longer Serbs, but Syrian Kurds. There are others as well, including drug traffickers and contract killers (this point is emphasized in the first few moments); it is pointed out throughout that whites are seen as “Swedes” by newcomers, and people of color something else.

But “something else” includes emigrants with high-flying dreams and aspirations, primarily Leya (Evin Ahmad), the character who eventually straddles the business and crime spheres (as Mr. Kinnaman’s JW did in movies). Working a day job at a restaurant in the Middle East, the future tech entrepreneur is under pressure: her startup idea, Target Coach – a business that would determine the feasibility of other people’s start-ups – is afloat thanks to to a convertible loan taken out from a ne’er-do-well named Marcus Werner (Peter Eggers). The loan is about to fall due and Leya rightly suspects that Marcus will simply let the deadline pass and swallow up his business. She then breaks into a pitch session with billionaire investor Tomas Storm (Olle Sarri), who goes badly, then better: Storm, an almost comical amalgamation of narcissistic tech moguls from around the world, agrees to invest in Target Coach with one condition: Leya must be free from Marcus Werner. It is something that she cannot achieve without the money that she does not have.

A distinctive feature of “Snabba Cash” is the total insularity of its different worlds. Another is the havoc that follows when worlds collide. This is generally true when it comes to the strata that make up Swedish society in the series, and more particularly true among the characters: when Leya, a widow and single mother, falls in love with a wedding singer named Salim (Alexander Abdallah), she doesn’t. I know Salim is also a henchman of the King of Drugs Ravy (Dada Fungula Bozela) – who happens to be the brother of Leya’s murdered husband and her son’s uncle. Salim is also unaware of the links, and as he tries to cut her drug ties and Leya wonders whether to get the money she needs from Ravy – something she knows will come back to bite her – the various tensions further isolate the characters from each other. A sense of impending revelation, as well as doom, is omnipresent.

For those who are allergic to subtitles, Netflix has a remedy: you can watch “Snabba Cash” in original Swedish with English subtitles or, with a click of the remote, in an English dubbed version. (I would recommend the former, but that’s a personal preference.) A more common issue in the cable series – getting a viewer through the introductory episode and establishing the characters and their relationships – is more knotty for “Snabba.” Cash ”because it’s more involved than most shows of its ilk.

But it’s also more engaging. Once the stakes are set and Leya is faced with her almost classic conundrum – her deal with the devil – the show becomes completely captivating. Lead writer Oskar Söderlund and director Jesper Ganslandt bring urgency to Jens Lapidus’ 2006 novel, with significant changes, while retaining the central idea that people desperate to escape will do desperate things. A good example is Tim (Ali Alarik), the hapless white Swedish kid whose involvement as a courier for Ravy’s subordinates drives him deeper and deeper into crime and debt – much like Leya. Their motives may differ, as may their circumstances, but the trajectory of the disaster does not recognize any birthrights.

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About Christopher Rodgers

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