Before RoboCop, most Americans who were aware of its star Joel Kinnaman became aware of him from AMC's The Killing, for being the lanky yet eye-catching young actor about whom we had the pleasure of saying, among other things: "Wait, that guy's Swedish? Like, from-Sweden Swedish?"
Yes (though his dad's American), and when not winning our hearts as a shabby and mildly stunted recovering addict who proves to be a keen and very convincingly American-sounding street cop in sodden Seattle, Kinnaman also has been at the center of an elaborate Swedish underworld. In the movies, that is.
Easy Money, not to be confused with the Rodney Dangerfield movie of the same name, is a propulsive 2010 Swedish thriller adapted from the first book of author and defense lawyer Jens Lapidus' "Stockholm Noir Trilogy." It's an ensemble film, really, but Kinnaman shines as a status-seeking finance student who becomes a runner for a brutal coke dealer. It is not a spoiler to say that the money isn't actually easy after all.
The film is available streaming, and its first sequel, Easy Money II: Hard to Kill, opens in limited release later this week. In that one, whose original title translates as "Never Fuck Up," Kinnaman's character returns, so you know he lived through the first one. Or do you?
Definitely you hope so, which is very much a function of how good this actor really is. You may note the practically Shakespearean pathos that occurs in Easy Money when Kinnaman's unrefined character meets his girlfriend's posh parents and discovers he's still got blood on his sleeve from a certain prior incident. Or in the sequel, when, looking very obviously worse for wear, he runs into her again after years apart and reflexively launches into a spiel about how well he's been doing. It's heartbreaking stuff. Even in movies so taut with pulpy plot points and merciless violence, it's the character-driven moments -- and in particular, the Kinnaman-driven moments -- that most resonate.
His is a sly or furtive charisma. He's watchable because he's vulnerable, and malleable, in ways that seem organic and innate. So in RoboCop when Michael Keaton's character says, "They want a product with a conscience, something that knows what it feels like to be human," it's no stretch at all to imagine Kinnaman suiting up. Given everything he's already seen, those watchful eyes seem made to survey the (glossy, smashy, overwrought, possibly kinda kick-ass) existential horror of mechanized law enforcement. Of course they'll be hidden under a helmet most of the time, but whatever. Putting aside any jadedness -- to wit an Onion headline from last fall, "New 'RoboCop' Trailer Reveals Main Character To Be Some Sort Of Robotic Policeman" -- or, conversely, the tinny sentimental value of Paul Verhoeven's 1987 original, it's obvious how this rebooted franchise, if we must have it, could benefit from Kinnaman as the bona fide soul of a new machine.
Kinnaman also appeared very briefly in David Fincher's version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and may or may not be in its sequels. But the original Easy Money trilogy is essentially his to own, and ours to discover. (It will of course be remade stateside; reportedly Warner Bros. has it in the works with Zac Efron attached. Meh.) The forthcoming part three is called Life Deluxe, and that sounds pretty good regardless of whether or not being RoboCop works out.