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Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Pulp affliction: this Girl has lost her sting
By BRETT MICHEL  |  October 27, 2010

The first two installments of late Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy boasted English titles that could be taken as literal: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the English title of the concluding chapter (which has been adapted into film by Fire's collaborators, director Daniel Alfredson and writer Jonas Frykberg, joined this time out by new co-writer Ulf Ryberg), is strictly metaphoric. Or rather, a cliché. This Swedish-language adaptation of the bestseller is a B-movie, the screen equivalent of a "summer beach read."

That's not necessarily a bad thing. But the equally pulpy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was treated as a proper movie by Niels Arden Oplev, who gave that first film a cinematic sense of visual sweep and scope. Hornet's Nest relies on close-ups and an episodic editing pace that seems designed for a commercial break every 10 minutes. And rape and retribution, those sordid small-screen staples, are major attractions.

"It's like a classic Greek tragedy," observes one character about the details of the violent confrontation between Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace, still a spitfire) and her ex-KGB father, hard-to-kill Alexander Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov), whom she attempted to burn to death when she was 12 in order to avenge her abused mother. That scene ended Fire. In true TV-episode fashion, the new film picks up immediately afterward, as Salander is rushed to the ICU with a bullet lodged in her brain. Her immune-to-pain half-brother, hulking albino Ronald Niedermann (Mikael Spreitz), fired the shot. He's managed to escape, but not Lisbeth's old man; he's in a nearby hospital room, having been chopped with an ax by his daughter in the fracas. He's recovering from his wounds, but not for long — finishing the job on Zalachenko is an unlikely, elderly assassin from "The Section," a rogue group of Swedish security agents who need to cover up their criminal history.

Lisbeth is also on their hit list, but she needs to stick around, rehabilitating so that she can once again go full punk for the stereotypical courtroom scene in which she stands falsely accused of three murders. Until then, however, her participation in the film is limited. That leaves her ex-lover, crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), to work with his magazine staff and new allies within the government in order to build her case and bring the bad guys to justice.

Unfortunately, with Salander laid up, the tentative but rewarding rapport between Blomkvist and Salander that anchored Dragon Tattoo has dissipated. And no matter how propulsive Jacob Groth's electronic music may be, it just can't make scenes of Lisbeth lying in bed, tapping out her autobiography on the keys of a smart phone, all that exciting to watch.

For that, we have Lisbeth's post-trial, warehouse-set showdown with her Terminator-like bro. I'm not sure there's anything Greek about it, but as far as satisfying moviemaking goes, it's pretty tragic.

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