‘Girl’ loses a bit of fire in se­quel

sec­ond film in swedish tril­ogy throws too much into plot

Austin American-Statesman - - MOVIES&LIFE - By Joe Gross amer­i­can-states­man staff

At the end of “The Girl With the Dragon Tat­too,” we left the tiny, bril­liant Lis­beth Sa­lan­der quite lit­er­ally walk­ing into the sun­set. Her cy­ber­punk duds traded for an anony­mous busi­ness suit, her slash of black hair col­ored, she was on the run, but safe from her tor­men­tors, trad­ing grim Swe­den for sun­nier cli­mates. Along with her jour­nal­ist pal, the cru­sad­ing Mikael Blomkvist, her ge­nius with com­put­ers and nascent in­ves­tiga­tive mind had ended the ca­reer of a vi­cious, misog­y­nist se­rial killer. All was, more or less, right with the world.

Not so much in the se­quel, the equally re­lent­less “The Girl Who Played With Fire.” Sa­lan­der (Noomi Ra­pace, still fas­ci­nat­ing to watch) is look­ing a lit­tle less waifish, a lit­tle less frail. She’s stayed out of sight but can’t quite let go of the sav­age Nils Bjur­man, the lawyer who bru­tally raped her in the first movie. She has to head back to Swe­den to make sure he stays docile.

Mean­while, Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) men­tors a younger jour­nal­ist who is about

to crack a sex traf­fick­ing ring wide open. When the jour­nal­ist and his girl­friend meet vi­o­lent ends, Blomkvist feels com­pelled to put things right.

Un­like “Dragon Tat­too,” Sa­lan­der and Blomkvist spend most of “Fire” apart, Sa­lan­der deal­ing with crimes she didn’t com­mit, Blomkvist try­ing to see how the sex ring fits in with Sa­lan­der’s pitch­black past. As in the ear­lier movie, both of them strug­gle with a cul­ture that would rather treat its ills with chilly si­lence. (It’s cer­tainly not Bergman mak­ing a noir, but that Swedish sen­si­bil­ity is hard to lose, es­pe­cially when you’re com­ment­ing on it.)

Throw in the scari­est Swedish heavy (the tank­like Micke Spre­itz) since Peter Stor­mare in “Fargo” and a scarred, near-su­per vil­lain straight out of a Thomas Har­ris fever dream and you have all the thriller-parts you could pos­si­bly need.

And yet, “Fire” burns only so brightly. Di­rected with beat-hit­ting ef­f­i­cency by Daniel Al­fred­son, “Fire” can’t quite over­come its lack of nov­elty, even if both leads seem a bit more com­fort­able in their char­ac­ters.

Blomkvist is sub­tle and calm, an eye in the overly com­pli­cated plot’s storm. Where he is su­perego, Sa­lan­der is pure id, forg­ing rela- tion­ships she must know are dan­ger­ous for his part­ners, walk­ing into houses she re­ally should know are death traps, draw­ing guns that look as big as she is. Blomkvist is the only one who be­lieves in Sa­lan­der’s in­no­cence; Sa­lan­der knows she is bad with peo­ple and pushes them away and is as grate­ful as she can be for Blomkvist’s friend­ship.

When the f inal bat­tle comes, both of them know the only thing keep­ing them from obliv­ion — both phys­i­cal and mental — is each other. One wishes the drama dug a lit­tle deeper and re­warded their re­la­tion­ship’s spe­cial, well, fire. Rat­ing: Rated R for bru­tal vi­o­lence in­clud­ing a rape, some strong sex­ual con­tent, nu­dity and lan­guage. Run­ning time: 2 hours, 9 min­utes. The­aters: Ar­bor, Tin­sel­town South.

Knut Koivisto

In her sec­ond out­ing as Lis­beth Sa­lan­der, a ge­nius hacker ca­pa­ble of vi­o­lent vengeance, Noomi Ra­pace is com­fort­able in her role.

Knut Koivisto

Noomi Ra­pace’s ‘Girl’ is bad with peo­ple, good with guns.

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