Movie review: ‘Girl Who Played With Fire’ labors under middle-child syndrome
Fueled by copious jolts of strong coffee and propelled by the chilly – and chilling – Nordic sensibility of its late creator Stieg Larsson, “The Girl Who Played With Fire” delivers an appropriately pulpy if not wholly fulfilling second cinematic chapter in the author’s hugely popular Millennium trilogy.
Not as grippingly seductive or fully creepy as Niels Arden Oplev’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” veteran Swedish TV director Daniel Alfredson’s version of the second book suffers slightly from a middle-child syndrome. It’s not as surprising or startlingly fresh as the first film, yet it leaves us anticipating an exhilarating climax in the third (“The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest,” due up next in American markets).
“The Girl Who Played With Fire” (in Swedish with subtitles) picks up a year after the first film, when Lisbeth Salander (the perfectly cast Noomi Rapace) returns to Stockholm after a year underground. In a tight series of events, this fierce, freaky brainiac with genius hacker skills and zero social graces finds herself implicated in three brutal murders (seems they found her fingerprints on the gun).
So, in essence, the story concerns efforts by her old friend, knight-errant journalist Mikael Blomkvist (appealingly world-weary Michael Nyqvist), to exonerate Lisbeth and in the process uncover a tangled web of sex trafficking and decades-old conspiracy that taps into Lisbeth’s dark, inflammatory history of violence and sexual abuse.
A great deal of the appeal in Larsson’s moody crime writing is in hanging out with this odd pair of crime solvers (his anti Nick and Nora Charles, if you will) – Mikael oblique, noble, virile and bemused; Lisbeth all sharp edges, explosive rage and raw pain.
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