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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

Return of the Dragon Tattoo

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A nightmare awakens Lisbeth Salander at the start of The Girl Who Played With Fire. Horrific images from the previous episode of the Swedish trilogy that began with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—Lisbeth’s rape at the hands of her legal guardian—jolt her into consciousness. Clearly, the young woman has unfinished business with the predatory, sadistic lawyer, Bjurman. But she learns soon enough that someone is trying to frame her for a trio of murders, including the brutal execution of Bjurman in his own bed.

Based on Stieg Larsson’s second novel, The Girl WhoPlayed With Fire continues the story with the same main characters plus a new set of villains. Lisbeth is a memorable creation—a bisexual, kickboxing, motorcycle riding, black leather and nose-ring wearing, punk rocking, computer hacking genius. Her teenage stint in an abusive mental hospital only sharpened her angry edge. Lisbeth is especially bitter over men abusing women, and is willing to be the avenging dark angel. How ironic that the first two murders pinned on her are of a team of reporters investigating a ring of Russian prostitutes sanctioned by corrupt Swedish cops, judges and prosecutors. The whole thing stinks, and Lisbeth’s sometimes friend, investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist, knows it.

Larsson’s stories, which have attracted an international audience, pull the spirit of American 1930s hard-boiled fiction and ’40s film noir into a 21st-century Scandinavian setting. Corruption hides under every pleasant faade and monsters roam the corridors in the semblance of men. Unlike the previous installment, director Daniel Alfredson shot The Girl Who Played With Fire as a two-part TV mini-series. Perhaps this resulted in more car chases and villains a little larger than life. But Alfredson also brings a painterly eye for the twilight colors of the Baltic to his efficiently told story, along with excellent cross-editing between scenes and a superb sense for incorporating the Internet into cinema. The acting is convincing, especially Noomi Rapace as the wiry Lisbeth, a woman emotionally damaged by the evil she encountered in childhood yet groping in the darkness toward human empathy.

The Girl Who Played With Fire is showing at the Downer Theatre.

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