*The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (R)
Kimball's Peak Three
Like the first sparks of an affair, it'd be difficult to replicate the thrill viewers got when introduced to Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the introductory chapter of a trilogy that's come to be known as late author Stieg Larsson's Millennium series. The second installment, The Girl Who Played With Fire, stripped much of the Lisbeth-ness from Lisbeth, including her goth look, pissy attitude and hacker skills. (Well, the ones not involving an axe, anyway.)
Now the close of the series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, offers a mixed bag: Sometimes the girl we love is there, and other times the film chases bad guys who are, admittedly, mired in Lisbeth's deep, deep shit, but also might as well be bogeymen for all we care. Does "rogue security services group" inspire fear in you?
Daniel Alfredson, who directed Fire, returns to tell Larsson's story with chilly, rain-soaked Swedish efficiency. The film opens with Lisbeth (sure Oscar contender Noomi Rapace) and her evil father (Georgi Staykov) in the hospital after their nearly-to-the-death scuffle at the end of the last film. So right from the start, Lisbeth's dormant.
As she fights to get her strength and her mind back, her good-guy doctor fights off the hounds: Suspected of a triple homicide and soon to be under arrest for the attempted murder of her father, she's the target of lots of legals as well as a psychiatrist, Peter Teleborian (Anders Ahlbom), who (mis)treated her while she was committed to an asylum as a child. (After her first try at killing Dad.)
Meanwhile, father dearest, who was involved in setting up Lisbeth in the triple murder, still wants his daughter dead, and calls a handful of elderly ne'er-do-wells to get to it. Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), the investigative journo Lisbeth teamed up with in the first film to solve a missing-person case, works on a special issue of his magazine that's devoted to "providing justice for Lisbeth Salander." Soon, his staff is in danger, too, receiving anonymous threats and suffering break-ins as Lisbeth's trial nears. Mikael's cooperation with a special police unit working the case also doesn't help.
Most of Hornet's Nest, therefore, plays out as a procedural, one that's interesting enough to hold your attention throughout the film's two and a half hours but not so compelling that the new developments thrill. The "blond tank" (Mikael Spreitz) from the previous film doesn't do much but murder randomly, adding one too many plot threads.
Really, it's all glue to hold together the film's real draw: Lisbeth and Mikael, no longer K-I-S-S-I-N-G but connected strongly enough that he's risking his life to fight for her and she knows it. Even though Lisbeth spends most of the movie in a hospital bed, she's furtively tapping on her forbidden cell and scheming; exercising the damaged side of her body so she doesn't need anyone's help for anything, thank you. (Though she reluctantly accepts the counsel of Mikael's attorney sister.)
As with Fire, Hornet's Nest features just enough flashbacks and exposition to help it stand alone, though it's likely more satisfying as part of a whole.
Lisbeth fans will be happy to see her gothness and smug vengeance return in a most delightful way, which ultimately elevates this third installment a few notches above the disappointing second.