Snabba Cash reworks its source material while also retaining its essential theme of how crime, business, and the immigrant experience intersect, with engrossing results.
This review of Snabba Cash season 1 is spoiler-free.
The writing of Jens Lapidus in the novel Snabba Cash, or Easy Money, and several subsequent follow-ups, has obviously struck a chord in the film and TV landscape. Beginning in 2010 there were three films starring Joel Kinnaman, then talk of an American remake fronted by Zac Efron, and now a six-part Swedish-language series on Netflix. You can see why. Operating in the always-popular crime genre, but splicing and juxtaposing it with the cutthroat worlds of start-up entrepreneurship and immigration, the stories hit several universal notes and create a damning picture of how contemporary Western society is structured and systematized. It might be set in Sweden and concern the fates of several Syrian Kurds, among others, but you could take the basic template and apply it anywhere.
Snabba Cash hones in on how various social strata are virtually indistinguishable beyond how dominated they are by white faces. The character most like a protagonist is Leya (Evin Ahmad), a widowed single mother and budding tech entrepreneur who finds investment for her start-up, Target Coach, in the form of billionaire tech-bro composite Tomas Storm (Olle Sarri). But there’s a problem since Target Coach was initially floated on a loan from the unscrupulous Marcus Werner (Peter Eggers), and Storm wants him gone, which requires an amount of capital that Leya can’t acquire without dipping her toes into a world of high-stakes illegality occupied by her brother-in-law, Ravy (Dada Fungula Bozela), whose loans don’t come without strings.
Snabba Cash is deliberate in how it charts Leya and Ravy’s success on parallel tracks, highlighting similarities even before they begin to more explicitly intersect. That process is hastened along by Leya falling for Salim (Alexander Abdallah), a well-intentioned singer who also happens to be Ravy’s right-hand man. Neither Leya nor Salim is aware of their shared connections at first, but that doesn’t last long as the six episodes rapidly ratchet up the tension and the sense of impending, inevitable disaster on all fronts.
For once, six episodes seems like too few for the material. A slightly longer opener creates the impression of a show that’s absolutely all over the place, with characters and subplots cropping up here, there, and everywhere, but once it all begins to cohere the back half proves a riveting, often upsettingly brutal descent into a world of spiraling personal despair and compromise. Leya, Salim, and an off-the-rails white kid named Tim (Ali Alarik) all provide different perspectives on how crime, debt, ambition, love, and naivete all intertwine, how one bad decision can lead to countless others, and how every bill always has to be paid one way or another.