‘Girl’ loses a bit of fire in sequel
second film in swedish trilogy throws too much into plot
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.
In her second outing as Lisbeth Salander, a genius hacker capable of violent vengeance, Noomi Rapace is comfortable in her role.
Noomi Rapace’s ‘Girl’ is bad with people, good with guns.