Mark Reviews Movies

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE

1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Daniel Alfredson

Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Yasmine Garbi, Johan Kylén, Micke Spreitz, Ralph Carlsson, Paolo Roberto, Georgi Staykov

MPAA Rating: R (for brutal violence including a rape, some strong sexual content, nudity and language)

Running Time: 2:09

Release Date: 7/9/10


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Review by Mark Dujsik | July 8, 2010

The lingering suspicion at the end of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first movie adaptation of Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy of novels, is that the characters, underdeveloped but intriguing as they probe a decades-old disappearance, will begin to reveal themselves in more lucid ways as their overarching story progresses in the continuing chapters. The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second installment of the series, calls that hunch into serious question.

The movie abandons even the most basic characterizations of its plot-heavy predecessor for another muddling hunt for the truth that relies more on genre contrivances than any skill on the part of the investigators. Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the resourceful, tech-savvy researcher and titular girl with the tattoo who has a flame-based episode in her past, hardly does any exploring that isn't handed to her (Her photographic memory is touched upon exactly once), while Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), the semi-journalist publisher of a cutting edge magazine, also has a lot of other people do the work for him.

These characters, who made an intrepid duo last time, are kept apart for almost the entirety of the movie, and they are entirely passive to the plot happening around them.

This time around, Lisbeth's guardian (Peter Andersson) has had enough of her extortion, as she hold video evidence that he raped her, and wants out. He promises a mysterious man on the phone for Lisbeth's records if the man makes her and the video disappear.

Meanwhile, Mikael has bought a freelance writer's (Hans-Christian Thulin) article about an international sex trade that has some prominent clients. People end up dead, Lisbeth is framed for the murders, and Mikael, who hasn't seen his old partner/flame in over a year, knows she's innocent. He and his staff try to decide how much information they can divulge to the police without bringing any further harm to their sources.

It's an important conversation for them but a pretty pointless one, as Bublanski (Johan Kylén) the lead investigator on the case, doesn't want any of the information the magazine has, no matter how vital and potentially helpful to a triple homicide case it might be. The detective believes Lisbeth's is guilty—evidence to the contrary, which stacks up regularly, be damned. Either the cop is somehow involved, or he's utterly incompetent.

Incompetence and stupidity run through the veins of the large majority of these characters. A tall, beefy thug (Mikael Spreitz), who has the convenient genetic trait of being unable to feel pain (which somehow translates into his ability to sustain a stun gun shock to the crotch without any adverse effects), captures and knocks unconscious Lisbeth's sometime lover (Yasmine Garbi) and a professional boxer (Paolo Roberto, a professional boxer playing himself) in a barn. He has a chainsaw, which he was about to use to kill the woman, but instead goes outside, bars the door shut, proceeds to splash gasoline along the entire exterior of the barn, then sets it on fire. Obviously, during the time it takes to do all of this, the captives regain consciousness, break out (through the back door), and escape into the night.

Later, the goon scolds a couple of his own cronies for not burning down the summer home of Lisbeth's former guardian, which contains the only information Lisbeth needs to reveal the identity of the man behind the sex trade and the false charges against her. Essentially, the heroes' success depends almost exclusively on dumb luck or cheap devices needed to keep the convoluted plot running.

It's all tied directly to Lisbeth's past, revealed in flashback and dramatic narration in a scene meant to bring Mikael back on track, and it's exactly the circumstances that were hinted to the point of outright explanation in the first movie. The full details only serve to tell about a government conspiracy and a minor extension of Lisbeth's dysfunctional family.

All these plot holes and contraptions build The Girl Who Played with Fire toward a ridiculous climax, featuring a character shot repeatedly and buried alive and another taking the business-end of an axe to the skull. Both survive, although as one once lived through total immolation, maybe it's not a total surprise. This is a lackluster and obvious thriller, now leaving the suspicion there actually isn't anything of significance happening in this franchise.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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