The Girl Who Played With Fire (R)
Kimball's Peak Three
Most of the talk about the anticipated American remake of Sweden's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has focused on which U.S. actress has The Look. The original's inked heroine, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), was all eyeliner and edge, with leather and a black Kate Gosselin haircut that came off as appropriately goth. She was tiny but tough, fighting back with remarkable physicality against those who wronged her. Lisbeth didn't particularly care if she was a law-abiding citizen. And you loved her for it.
The Girl Who Played With Fire is the second Swedish adaptation of the late Stieg Larsson's Millennium book series, which has become similar to the Twilight saga — except these are well-written, and the first film excellent. So expectations for the second film are high enough to be unsatisfiable.
This time, Rapace's antisocial hacker returns (sans The Look) with long hair and less makeup. After solving the case of a long-missing teenager with Mikael Blonkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a disgraced journalist she kept tabs on, Lisbeth traveled for a year. Now, she's ready to lie low in another gorgeous place while she lets sometime-lover (Yasmine Garbi) stay at her flat.
Lisbeth hasn't had contact with Mikael since the case, and never told her boss that she was leaving. Her only link to the world is her laptop, which she uses to occasionally check up on Mikael and her dirtbag guardian, Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson). It's information on the latter that gets things going: Lisbeth learns that he's not submitting glowing reports on her as they had agreed. He's also looked into removing the tattoo she scrawled across his torso: "I'm a sadistic pig and a rapist." And she sticks Bjurman's own gun to his head to let him know that should he have it erased, she'll only carve it into his forehead.
Lisbeth, gloveless, puts the gun down as she storms out. Ya think that'll cause her some trouble later?
Taking the reins from Dragon Tattoo director Niels Arden Oplev is Daniel Alfredson, who delivers a film that's both blustery and passive. Straight-up violence replaces the subtle creepiness of the first film.
Separately, Mikael and Lisbeth work on murder cases, and that separation is one of the story's biggest flaws. Rapace is reduced to a near-silent performance; Lisbeth smokes and looks vaguely alarmed as she sees herself on wanted posters.
There is enough whodunit in The Girl Who Played With Fire to keep the story engaging, but it's not nearly as thrilling as our initial introduction to the brilliant, dark, violent force of nature and her unlikely pairing with a smart journo. The climax has a surprise, though its unraveling is like a horror movie scene, complete with plenty of implausibility.
And then the film just ... ends. The non-wrap-up is made more irksome by the assumption that viewers will obediently follow the trilogy — regardless of its seemingly diminishing returns.