THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST (Dir. Daniel Alfredson, 2010)

“It’s like a classic Greek tragedy. Zalachenko tries to shoot his daughter, assisted by her brother. Then she rises from the grave to plant an axe in her father’s skull.” – Fredrik Clinton (Lennart Hjulström)

That’s right – Lisbeth Salamander (Naomi Rapace) is back in the third and final edition of the extremely popular “Millennium” trilogy, but after the events of the last film she has to recover in a hospital bed, which kind of drags this movie down right from the get-go.

It’s the same hospital that her evil father (Georgi Staykov) was taken to – you see that axe didn’t quite do the job (or quite cut it if you want to go the pun route).

Meanwhile Rapace’s old journalist friend Michael Nyqvist assembles a special issue of his magazine Millennium devoted entirely to expose that several authorities conspired against the dragon tattooed Girl who plays with fire to protect a pathological killer.

At the same time the old white haired men behind the crimes scramble to have Rapace placed back at St. Stephen’s mental hospital where she was wrongly committed when she was 12 years old.

Oh yeah, there’s also the supposed to be frightening factor that her half brother (Micke Spreitz)- a blond brute who again looks like a ’60s Bond villain henchman is out and about killing and torturing folks on some kind of Anton Chigurish-bender.

When Rapace is fit for trial she emerges in completely punked out attire – tall pitch black faux-hawk, heavily pierced, black leather, black lipstick and eye shadow. Her so cold and sullen attitude does her or the movie any good though as the court room scenes have no edge. They take too much time in the drab back and forth questioning with a predictable playing out that makes this movie seem for a long chunk that it’s “The Girl Who Treaded Water”.

It’s all leading to the inevitable violent showdown between Rapace and Spreitz in yet another dark warehouse setting.

In a overpopulated cast it’s hard to keep everybody straight but the other notable people here are Lena Endre as a pregnant lawyer friend of Nyquist’s, Annika Hallin as a flirty Millenium magazine co-worker, and Anders Ahlbom as another evil entity from the Girl’s past – a corrupt psychiatrist trying to keep all wrong doings under wraps.

As you can probably tell – I thought this was the least inspired of the 3 films that make up this series based on the bestselling novels by the late Stieg Larsson, but I know it’s still one that fans of the previous films will just have to see and will most likely find a fitting, if muted, end to the trilogy.

Having not read the books I don’t know if it’s faithfully handled but I just bet that there’s more emotional resonance to the characters than what’s on display here.

Maybe the English language version of the series, directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig with Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salamander set for release in 2011, will figure out a more satisfying conclusion for all those who hate subtitles. We shall just have to wait and see.

More later…

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE: The Film Babble Blog Review

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE (Dir. Daniel Alfredson, 2009)

Right on the heels of the wildly successful theatrical run of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO comes this sequel, and before the end of this year the third (“The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest”) in the Swedish series dubbed “The Millennium Trilogy” will be released.

You see, the Swedes don’t take 2-3 years between sequels – they strike when the iron is hot. Hollywood is trying to catch up with an English language version of the franchise directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig, but that’s way off so let’s just concentrate on the sequel at hand.

Though helmed by a different director (Alfredson takes over from Niels Arden Oplev) “The Girl Who Played With Fire” is roughly the same quality as its predecessor so if you thought “Dragon Tattoo” was a dark gripping experience well worth the time it took to get where it was going you’re likely to think that of the follow-up.

Michael Nyquist and the title’s namesake, Noomi Rapace, return in a scenario set a year after the events of “Dragon Tattoo”. The Millennium Magazine journalist Nyquist is investigating a sex-trafficking ring, separate from Rapace who is in hiding after being accused of three murders.

Nyquist believes she is innocent of the murders of a couple of his fellow journalists as well as Rapace’s guardian, Peter Andersson, who folks should remember from one of the most searing scenes in the first installment.

Utilizing wigs, a lavish secret apartment, and her incredible computer hacking skills, Rapace is able to avoid the police and gets the appropriate info to Nyquist, who tracks down some dangerous family history having to do with, yes, the girl in question actually playing with fire.

There’s a huge obstacle to both the protagonist’s paths – a towering henchman (Mikael Spreitz) described by boxer Paolo Roberto (in an odd cameo as himself) as a “blond tank.” Spreitz’s feel no pain presence brings to mind the likewise bruts James Bond battled in the ’60s (but then I did just re-watch FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE).

The pace plummets a few times with the film overestimating the chemistry of the central characters at crucial moments. Several times Nyquist is asked “what’s going on between you?” with no answer given. Despite not sharing any screen time until the very end there’s obviously an attraction that is supposed to be the crux of the biscuit, but perhaps it’s something that’s stronger felt in the books which haven’t left the top of the New York Times Bestseller list in months.

Obviously, having not read the late Stieg Larsson’s books I can’t comment on that, but I get the appeal of these people and their predicaments to a degree. Nyquist lives a more conventional life than the bisexual punk attired Rapace, yet he respects her ideals and vice versa. Somehow her spare never smiling acting style conveys this.

Rapace does give off a sly almost barely detectable smile at one point after violently overthrowing 2 biker baddies and stealing one of their motorcycles. It says it all: don’t even dream about trying to put girls with dragon tattoos who play with fire in a corner.

Swedish with English subtitles. Starts Friday, August 6th at the Colony Theater in North Raleigh. Check the theater’s website for showtimes.

More later…