Humanity is often cut from Easy Money’s sequel. Beginning a slaughterhouse of rolling deaths and merciless shootings over a sports bag spilling ill-gotten finances, this Swedish thriller becomes an eventual glutton for bloodshed.
Also known as Snabba Cash in its native Sweden, Joel Kinnaman returns as JW, imprisoned over his drug trafficking transgressions of the first film. JW is secondary as the feature’s script hones its dramatic thrust onto Jorge (Matias Varela), a cruel drug runner with an affection for a prostitute Nadja (Madeleine Martin). A third simultaneous plot line layers on Mahmoud (Fares Fares), desperate to pay off a local kingpin.
Eventually, three narrative strands will stitch themselves together in a clash of cautiously paced character. Each player is driven by defined purposes, confusingly threaded until Hard to Kill sufficiently pulls these unforgiving types together.
Babak Najafi directs with an appreciable subtly, disallowing the score to impede on cinematography meant to elicit realism. Hard to Kill is quiet as Jon Ekstrand returns for composition duties. Instead, guttural tension is honed from rising themes which match escalating drama. However, the dramatic credits which blare horns over each actor’s names are overselling the film’s thematic thrust.
Both Easy Money and this sequel pull from Jens Lapidus’ novels with a somewhat unexciting push into Sweden’s illicit drug trade. On film, the characterized awe when people discover a well traveled stash or snort their product are passe. Hard to Kill is best concerned with its uniquely drawn players rather than those conventions which propel them into one another. As an aside, this sequel pens itself well for newcomers with stable flashbacks and reconstructed past events. More than a reminder, these incidents leverage themselves into Hard to Kill’s current strain of intertwined action.
Despite the source’s lackluster plotting pieces, characters are bred on screen with complexity birthed from the novel. Scuzzy thieves are less routine and instead bound to their family’s disgrace for these actions. Jorge’s seemingly impenetrable indifference to men dying around him is shattered when personal events break his stability. And JW, on a short unsupervised release from prison, finds himself excitable as he nears a stable career path away from the necessity of low rung dealing.
While Hard to Kill’s development strengthens individuals, this style creates a mesh of ideas which present as perplexing. It’s as if this sequel is using pre-written characters in a disjointed continuance before creating a rash a killings for the sake of melodrama, and ultimately feels abandoned with another sequel – Life Deluxe – awaiting Stateside release. Hard to Kill is the middle child of the series.
Cinedigm drops the Blu-ray into the States with a struggling AVC encode, a piece of digital compression trying to wrangle a source obsessed early with noise. Added grit is already a small bother despite intent, but balloons in severity when the AVC stranglehold loses itself to bolster the noise impact.
Past the first act, Hard to Kill is less of a complaint-fest, settling as textured if suffering from on again/off again zealous processing. Glossy faces counter those with striking fidelity with some regularity, cinematography a bit inconsistent as was post production rendering.
Despite being native to Sweden, the allure of American filmmaking seeps into Hard to Kill with heavy adherence to orange, blues, and teals in its color framing. This look lacks the excitement and covers the later half in only a handful of these hues. Despite work to create blinding light in spots, these encompassing color decisions even hit the whites with cooler tones.
Visual excitement is otherwise difficult to find. Black levels are at the mercy of color timing, losing their oomph to the torrent of blue. They’re equal to the faded contrast. Even without the toughness of appreciable depth, fidelity (when utilized fully) is acceptably high resolution.
Ignoring the English dub because, well, dubs, Cinedigm’s DTS-HD Swedish mix carries some specialized sound design, highlighted by a flipping car crash inside of the vehicle itself. The rotation knocks items around through the soundfield in a spectacular swirling motion. Engagement with stereos and surrounds is exceptional.
LFE is a missing event when outside of the score’s grip, used sparingly even as gunfire ejects at close range. A more arid and piercing effect is used to sell the space with high surround ambiance. That placement is held for much of the feature, from the variety of audio spread around the docks in the opening scenes or exaggerated interiors as music blares. Effective in its own way.
A trailer is the sole bonus.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.