Is ‘Safe House’ director’s previous film locked away?

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For the last two weekends, U.S. moviegoers have been enamored of “Safe House,” the Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds action thriller directed by an up-and-coming Swedish filmmaker named Daniel Espinosa. Film fans gave the picture an A- CinemaScore and catapulted it to the No. 1 spot at the box office this past weekend.

But Americans curious to check out Espinosa’s previous movie may find themselves scrambling harder than Washington’s Tobin Frost. Although U.S. rights to the film, “Snabba Cash,” have been owned by the Weinstein Company for nearly two years, the movie has no release date and appears to be languishing on the shelf.

Premiering at Berlin two years ago this month, the Swedish-language crime drama (its title translates as “Easy Money”) tells the story of a young cab driver (Joel Kinnaman of “The Killing”) who gets involved in the world of Stockholm drug running. As he sinks into the underworld, he becomes entangled with a Chilean ex-con who’s savvy about the drug trade and a hit man who carries out kills for a Central European mafia boss.

The dark Bildungsroman, which is based on a bestselling Swedish novel and was a hit upon its release in Sweden, created a sensation at the Berlinale. The Weinstein Company soon acquired domestic rights, while Warner Bros. picked up remake rights with the aim of turning it into a starring and producing vehicle for Zac Efron. The film also tapped into the general vogue for Scandinavian stories, one that’s powered ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ franchise and others.


The Weinstein Company then brought its new pickup to the Toronto Film Festival in September 2010, presumably to prime the pump for a commercial rollout. But the movie was mysteriously never dated for release.

Asked whether the success of “Safe House” could prompt that to change—the film, after all, could now be marketed as coming from the director of “Safe House”—a spokeswoman for the Weinstein Company said the release date was still ‘tbd.”

A source close to “Snabba Cash” who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk about the film publicly said he didn’t believe the Weinstein Company had any concrete plans at this point to release the movie and that producers may yet seek to extricate rights. For now, though, American viewers are out of luck; the film is not available on DVD or on any other platform in the U.S.

For his part, Espinosa deflected any concern. He told my colleague John Horn that with a second movie in the Swedish-language “Snabba” trilogy already shot (Espinosa is serving as a producer on that one) and a third set to begin production later this year, he believed the Weinstein Company was waiting so they can acquire the other two movies and bring the trio out as a series.

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Swedish spitfire Espinosa could seek sanctuary in South America

The Norwegians are coming (and the Swedes too)

--Steven Zeitchik