Claire Foy hacks, but script lacks

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael Phillips Chicago Tri­bune

“The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web: A New Dragon Tat­too Story” has lots of what you want, if you want some­thing grind­ingly fa­mil­iar. It’s full of pret­tily pho­tographed bru­tal­ity, most of it in the neigh­bor­hood of Claire Foy, the lat­est screen in­car­na­tion of the drag­ontat­tooed Lis­beth Sa­lan­der. Through­out the film the largely non­ver­bal Foy’s ei­ther get­ting tased or choked or punched or shot or, worst of all, pa­tron­ized, or she’s the one do­ing the tas­ing, chok­ing, punch­ing and shoot­ing. Best of all she mo­tor­cy­cles at high speeds on ice, while hap­less Stock­holm po­lice­men left on shore won­der if any­thing or any­one can catch that elu­sive leather-clad cy­ber­hack­ing vig­i­lante.

Uruguayan-born Fede Al­varez (“Don’t Breathe,” the re­cent “Evil Dead” re­boot) han­dles the ac­tion breath­lessly and well enough. The movie’s acted with se­ri­ous con­vic­tion. But I kind of hate it.

The peo­ple who call the on­go­ing Lis­beth Sa­lan­der saga a fem­i­nist tri­umph are both des­per­ate for role mod­els, and equat­ing fem­i­nism with fe­male-on-male re­venge. This is crude, low stuff with a supremely high-minded ve­neer of moral out­rage; it leans on abus­ing the pro­tag­o­nist and women in gen­eral, so that Sa­lan­der can turn the ta­bles and van­quish a smidge the evil that men do.

Mil­lions de­voured the late Stieg Lars­son’s “Mil­len­nium” tril­ogy. The bestsellers led to the Swedish­language film adap­ta­tions star­ring Noomi Ra­pace. David Fincher’s big­ger, bloat­ier 2011 English-lan­guage re­make of “The Girl with the Dragon Tat­too” MPAA rat­ing: R (for bru­tal vi­o­lent con­tent in­clud­ing rape and tor­ture, strong sex­u­al­ity, graphic nu­dity, and lan­guage) Run­ning time: 1:57 fea­tured Rooney Mara as Sa­lan­der and Daniel Craig as the in­trepid, ir­re­sistible in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Mikael Blomkvist.

“The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web” movie comes from the first Sa­lan­der novel writ­ten (by David Lager­crantz) af­ter Lars­son’s death. The script by di­rec­tor Al­varez, Steven Knight and Jay Basu amps up the nar­ra­tive’s dooms­day sce­nario. Hardly any­body has much to say in be­tween tas­ings.

In Stock­holm, Sa­lan­der ac­cepts an im­pos­si­ble mis­sion to hack into a po­ten­tially world-end­ing de­fense pro­gram known as “Fire­fall.” It’s the prop­erty of the U.S. Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency; a nasty col­lec­tion of Rus­sian thugs wants it, as does the vis­it­ing NSA hot­shot played with a lik­able air by Lakeith Stan­field of “At­lanta” and “Sorry to Bother You.” The thugs, known as “spi­ders,” evolved out of a gang run by Sa­lan­der’s late, hideously in­ces­tu­ous fa­ther. Sa­lan­der’s sis­ter, we’re told, killed her­self three years ago. Yet we can’t quite be­lieve that.

Blomkvist (a rather bland Scando-hand­some Sver­rir Gud­na­son) takes a sec­ondary role in this out­ing, which suits the film’s ac­tion pri­or­i­ties. “Spi­der’s Web” sets up the cat-and­mous­ing of Sa­lan­der and Stan­field’s char­ac­ter, then com­pli­cates their re­la­tion­ship while the plot twists, some­times in­trigu­ingly, of­ten by way of lazy, silly mat­ters of ex­treme con­ve­nience.

Like Den­zel Wash­ing­ton in “Man on Fire,” Foy has a mop­pet to pro­tect. In “Spi­der’s Web” the autis­tic sa­vant son (Christo­pher Con­very) of a dis­graced NSA agent (Stephen Mer­chant) holds the key to the nu­clear launch codes ev­ery­body’s af­ter. Per­mit me to quote my­self, will you? Eight years ago, when the Swedish-lan­guage “Dragon Tat­too” came out: “Its char­ac­ters can­not fathom the depths to which hu­man­ity can sink to sat­isfy their sick, sick urges. Yet the en­tire en­ter­prise de­pends on wal­low­ing in those depths.” A year later, re­view­ing Fincher’s re­make: “I con­fess to hav­ing had enough of this story, these char­ac­ters, this pe­cu­liarly pop­u­lar nar­ra­tive blend of sex­ual vi­o­lence and se­rial slaugh­ter.”

A few hours af­ter see­ing “Spi­der’s Web”? I re­call two de­tails: the line “Kill the jour­nal­ist,” and the per­pet­ual, ex­pan­sive white walls back­ing the in­te­rior scenes, just wait­ing for the script to splurch things up with a lit­tle blood.

REINER BAJO/SONY PIC­TURES

Lis­beth Sa­lan­der (Claire Foy, the third ac­tress to play her) takes on an­other mis­sion in “The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web.”

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