Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

The last time we saw Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) in the movie ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ she had just saved her lovesick part-time lover Mikael Blomqvist (Michael Nyqvist) from being murdered, acquired a bunch a cash in the process and was relaxing with her newfound wealth off in the Caribbean somewhere. However if you know Lisbeth like we know Lisbeth then you know full well that none of this is making her happy. Nothing makes her happy. Today we will be catching up with the absolutely miserable Lisbeth Salander in the adaptation the late author Stieg Larsson’s second novel in his Millennium Series ‘The Girl Who Played with Fire’, a film that doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights set for it by its predecessor.

Circumstance has forced Lisbeth to head on back home to Sweden, mainly because it seems the raping pig Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson) hasn’t been filing Lisbeth’s guardian reports as she has explicitly informed him to do lest his various pathologies be exposed. So back home Lisbeth tidy’s up a few things, has a polite conversation with Bjurman, reconnects, so to speak, with her lesbian lover Miriam (Yasmine Garbi), visits a few more people she’s been sorely neglecting and settles into her new posh, out of the way condominium.

Mikael, for his part, is still writing explosive articles for his left wing Millennium rag and longing for Lisbeth. For whatever reason. Seriously, Lisbeth isn’t the prettiest girl around, she’s rude, violent, detached and disturbed with the cherry on top being that she’s also a lesbian causing one to wonder why Mikael is so mesmerized by this woman. Anyway, a typical explosive story falls in the lap of the Millennium staff via young investigator Dag Armanskij (Michalis Koutsogiannakis) who, along with his PhD candidate girlfriend, are blowing the lid off the local Eastern European sex trade and the high ranking government and law officials allowing this to slide under the radar.

As expected this young man and his girlfriend will be executed. Unexpected however is Lisbeth Salander being fingered as the murderer. The police have a solid bit of evidence to arrive at this conclusion but absolutely, positively, no motive. Follow this up with a third murder, one that makes more sense to point the finger at Lisbeth, but she didn’t off this guy either.

The question is who is framing Lisbeth for these murders and why? One of the answers seems to lie with a huge, nearly invincible white haired enforcer (Mikael Spreitz) but spending time with this guy, while we have no doubt that he can kill, we are almost certain that he is unable to ‘devise’ anything. Working independently, Blomqvist using his traditional investigative journalism techniques and Lisbeth using her supreme hacking skills will both arrive to the same conclusions. Lisbeth’s past has caught up with her and this past has some seriously bad intentions.

I read a statement saying something to the effect of ‘Don’t compare ‘The Girl who Played with Fire’ to ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, which of course is impossible but it does make some sense because they are essentially two different movies. Where ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ was a thriller, I would even say a standard thriller, it was a drum tight, very well done almost on the edge of your seat type thriller. This film is something else altogether. Working on the assumption that these films are adhering closely to the source material, everything in this film is toned down and muted with the exception that we are allowed deeper in the reasons behind Lisbeth’s numerous pathologies and trust issues.

Here the mystery element, so critical to the first film in observing Lisbeth and Mikael working together, is scattershot. In fact it’s almost completely discarded as the reasons behind the murder of the young couple and the research into human trafficking are basically tossed to the side and become tertiary. The interaction between Mikael and Lisbeth was virtually non-existent in this movie since they didn’t meet until near the end of the film which was also a very important element contributing to the last films success. And even though this film spends more time delving into Lisbeth’s past, even elements of this were sketchy and left dangling.

Still, probably for the first ninety minutes or so of this film, it was still captivating. Noomi Rapace has created one of the more amazing character forces of nature in recent movie memory with Lisbeth Sander and observing her inhabit this character never gets old or boring. Before the narrative seemed to go off track around the third act, this too was interesting, watching Blomqvist use his skills to peel back the layers of whatever is happening before us, it’s just that there wasn’t any real payoff for my man’s hard work.

‘The Girl who Played with Fire’ does have its merits as a work of cinematic art with it’s main fault being that it suffers when compared to the movie that preceded it. Still worth seeing but maybe in reverse order if you haven’t experienced ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

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