Review: ‘Easy Money’ sequel with Joel Kinnaman fails to pay off emotionally

Despite its status as a world leader in social equality, Sweden clings to a racial and class hierarchy in which one-percenter bankers profit from drug deals and bloodshed at the lower rungs of society — at least that was the critique that made the 2012 thriller “Easy Money” such a stylish and indignant affair. Striving business student J.W. (Joel Kinnaman) ricocheted between the jet-setting “aristos” and the criminal underclass to engineer a money-laundering scheme.

The new “Easy Money: Hard to Kill” picks up a few years after the events of the original film. In his first few days out of prison, J.W. (still played by Kinnaman) is shunned by his family and cheated out of a business deal. “There never was a way back,” he sighs to his prison pal, Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic).

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To survive, J.W. ventures to “the point of no return” — a tack also adopted by Jorge (Matias Varela) and Mahmoud (Fares Fares), two low-level thugs in their own storylines. Though “Hard to Kill” forges new ground on the rich character histories developed in the first film, they feel like a random trio assigned the same punishment whose lives eventually intersect — and as such, the emotional moments never land. There’s no such thing as a quick buck, except in movie sequels apparently.

“Easy Money: Hard to Kill.” No MPAA rating; in Swedish with English subtitles. Running title: 1 hour, 37 minutes. At Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills. Also available on VOD.