BLOG: Crime Sleeper Double Feature

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Crime Sleeper Double Feature: Larceny, Lies and Lefse: Daniel Espinosa’s Easy Money (2010) and Morten Tyldum’s Headhunters (2011)

Yes, this edition of the Crime Sleeper Double Feature showcases a couple of “readin’ movies,” but I have faith in you, dear reader, I think you’ll manage just fine regardless.  As I’ve said over and over again, if you’re not watching foreign films you’re clearly not getting enough crime in your diet, though that looks to change very soon when the decidedly read-less Killer Joe, Killing Them Softly, Seven Psychopaths, Lawless, The Place Beyond the Pines, and (hopefully someday) the now-infamous-and-heavily-re-tooled Gangster Squad are all released.  But until those films come around and – fingers crossed – blow our fragile minds, you should look into doing up Morten Tyldum’s Headhunters and Daniel Espinosa’s Easy Money.

Kicking the night off you’re gonna wanna go with the heavier of the two films, the Swedish Easy Money starring Joel Kinnaman of the lousy AMC show The Killing and the sadly inevitable Robocop remake.  Based on a novel by Jens Lapidus, we follow Kinnaman’s ambitious business student JW.  He’s brilliant at school and has wormed his way into high society, rubbing elbows with trust-fund kids while he lives on campus and drives a cab at night.  Then one day his boss at the cabstand, Abdulkarim, offers him thirty grand to hide an escaped convict named Jorge who has a connection to a major German cocaine source.

This act brings him into the inner-circle of his boss who is looking to make a major play in the city’s drug market against the Serbian mafia who are also after Jorge.  JW exploits his rich kid contacts and his own business savvy by helping Abdulkarim set up a money laundering scheme at a bank he knows is close to biting the dust.  But smart doesn’t always equal wise as JW soon finds himself being screwed left and right by Abdulkarim and having attempts made on his life by the Serbian mafia.

What first struck me about Easy Money is how little hand-holding the film does, the filmmakers forgoing exposition and just dropping you into this big, complex world full of diverse characters hoping you’ll stick with it long enough to figure out how the pieces fit together for yourself.  In other words, if you’re one of those little old ladies who is always asking their date questions after every mildly mysterious scene in a movie, this film will give you a fucking panic attack. That said, the reasonably intelligent viewer will find the mild challenge to be a major plus.  The film’s also usin’ its noggin’ in its approach to the business of crime, heavily emphasizing the international and white collar aspects of running an illegal empire.

But don’t think Easy Money is all storytelling veggies and vitamins as there’s plenty of dramatic meat and potatoes in there as well.  Once JW starts to recognize the danger of the world he’s slipped into you’re on the edge of your seat like it’s a fucking Breaking Bad episode.  And the climax of the film is masterfully done, with shit hitting the fan big time and everyone getting a little or a lot of hot poop on ‘em.

But to lamely keep going with this very loose food analogy (does the shit joke count as part of that theme?), let’s get to dessert already.  Like Easy Money, Headhunters is Scandinavian (Norwegian, to be precise), features a protagonist with a double life and is adapted from a popular crime novel, this one by Jo Nesbo.  It also stars an actor due to be in a pointless big budget American continuation of a franchise as Aksel Hennie is on board for the new Die Hard movie.  But unlike the smart and thoughtful Easy Money, Headhunters keeps shit darkly comic and briskly paced like a particularly nasty Hitchcock film.

Hennie plays Roger Brown, a powerful corporate headhunter with a gorgeous trophy wife and a side business in stealing art and replacing the pieces with forgeries.  After his wife introduces him to Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, aka Jamie Lannister from Game of Thrones) he finds that he’s a perfect candidate for a big-time position Brown is hoping to fill and has a Rubens in his place – the most expensive work Brown will have stolen to date.  But as he’s lifting the Rubens, Brown finds out his wife has been fucking Greve.  Even more distressingly, Greve may also be trying to kill him.

From there, Headhunters is a ridiculously high-energy thriller, with plenty of close-calls, clever twists, and hilariously dark comic set-pieces. (My personal favorite involves the cardboard tube toilet paper is wrapped around.)  Every little detail in Headhunters pays off masterfully, especially in the ingenious finale that had me close to no-shit cheering.  And Brown makes for a refreshingly complex thriller protagonist, a guy who equal parts charming and despicable and whose insecurity below his slick surface knows no bottom.

So again, apologies to the “I like my movies hearable and my books readable and never the twain shall meet” crowd because I’m pretty sure I just begrudgingly sold you on a night of read-watching.  Then again I could just be puffing myself up, but if that’s true I’d rather chalk up your indifference to what I’ve offered your ass to you being a dummy and me being just too damn smart. (It’s how I get through most days, after all.)  But come on, dear reader: You’ve got an intelligent crime drama and a slick comic thriller that I put within spitting distance of Hitchcock’s name – what’s a little reading next to that kind of praise?