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The Girl Who Played With Fire

Dir: Daniel Alfredson

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Music Box Films

129 Minutes

Most people who read this review will be English speakers. Many of these English speakers probably read at some of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium novels, a posthumous success that has swept the globe like Harry Potter for adults. However, many people who speak English and read the translations of Larsson’s books did not see the film adaption of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, quietly released a few months ago by Music Box Films, because it’s subtitled. They don’t like to read while watching movies! But meanwhile, they will read the book but say, “Fuck it! I’m waiting for David Fincher’s English language remake.” Whatever, I don’t get it.

On the heels of its predecessor, Music Box Films has now released the film version of the second part The Girl Who Played With Fire. Picking up where Dragon Tattoo left off, the sequel continues the story of Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the titular “girl” in both titles. In my review of the first film, I mentioned its lurid subject matter and its use of rape as a vehicle to fulfill our desire for revenge. Fire begins with a flashback of the vicious rape of the first film, reminding us that men have fucked up Salander’s life, turning her into the Goth vigilante she has become. This time around, Salander is framed for murder when her assailant and two young journalists about to publish a piece on Sweden’s sex trade are blasted with the same gun.

While the sequel is less garish than the horrific crime depicted in the first film, Larsson and director Daniel Alfredson love to rub our noses in guilty pay-offs. An extended lesbian love scene is included for no other reason than guys love to watch lesbian love scenes. Noses are broken and men are tasered in crotches. There is a reason the Millennium novels are popular. Smut sells. And I’m not moralizing here. Just stating the obvious.

However, what both films do well is swiftly move along a narrative over two plus hours at a brisk pace. Like an extended episode of “24,” The Girl Who Played With Fire gives the audience precisely what it wants, but nothing more. This is not great art by any means. Don’t confuse it with something deeper and you won’t walk out disappointed.

Also reprising his role is Michael Nyqvist as journalist Mikael Blomkivst. Of course, Blomkivst is the only one who believes Salander’s innocence as the cops can’t think outside the box. But for those looking for Blomkvist and Salander to re-ignite their affair from the first part, you will be sorely let down. In fact, the two share less than 30 seconds of screen time together in this installment.

Despite its boring cinematography and score, The Girl Who Played With Fire rests squarely on a strong performance of Rapace, who does well showing the years of abuse and anguished heaped upon her character. Even though the film poses more questions than give us answers, Rapace is something to look forward to in the third part of trilogy. It’s doubtful another actress will nail the role as well in the remake.

by David Harris
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