by Richard von Busack
THE GLOWING harbor views and country-scapes of The Girl Who Played With Fire are replaced in its sequel, a televisionistic series of close-ups of baleful Swedes frowning at each other over tables or sitting fidgeting at press conferences.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is of course Death Björk 2000, better known as punkette guerrilla Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). As she slowly, slowly heals from the multiple gunshot wounds she acquired at the end of the last movie, she’s the object of lively interest by the police.
They plan to charge her for the attempted murder of her father. He survived her hatchet attack in the last film; putty-faced from bad burn makeup, he delivers the film’s moment of peak defiance: “Fools! Idiots! I will destroy you!”
Meanwhile, the survivors of the government cabal who secretly imported Salander’s evil Soviet father into Sweden plan to silence the troublesome girl. They are mostly old and in a bad temper.
Our hero Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) of Millennium magazine wants to elicit Lisbeth’s side of the story. But his co-editor Erika (Lena Endre) is menaced by anonymous emails and a brick through the window. Disappointingly, this makes Erika less inclined to take on an editorial crusade instead of stiffening her willpower. It’s disappointing for a couple of reasons. Firstly, in the previous movies she didn’t look underequipped with willpower. Secondly, it was only two emails.
We should also note that Lisbeth’s half-German stepbrother (Georgi Staykov) is firmly in the still-lurking-about category. He is also still completely impervious to pain, just like Robert Carlyle in the 007 film The World Is Not Enough.
Lisbeth is also menaced by yet another smirking civil servant: her former shrink Dr. Peter Teleborian (Anders Ahlbom), who wants to get her back into his asylum.
A movie with a villain shouting, “Fools! Idiots! I will destroy you!” has already made some kind of a break with realism. The break is not mended by a summing up of Salander’s personal history: “It’s like a classic Greek tragedy!” Yes, very much like Sophocles with a borrowed James Bond villain crashing around—a peroxide blond like Robert Shaw’s Red Grant, yet.
So one wonders why the film pedantically insists on the realistic after-effects of some gunshot wounds. Bad as these wounds would be in real life, they are perhaps a little overdone for the purposes of a thriller.
Too much of the movie is spent watching Salander in physical therapy, slowly starting to regain her zest for living under the supervision of a handsome, kindly physician. It’s not until the end of the movie that she’s back to her old self, a walking tackle-box-worth of piercings, dressed like Cher during her brief Mohican era and wearing the ornery, put-upon expression that has brought worldwide fame.
Just as deserving of a put-upon expression, though he doesn’t have one: Niklas Falk as the prime minister’s man in charge of the investigation. He looks so full of serious conviction—a falcon version of that eagle, Max von Sydow—that one wants to see him take the movie over and shove the conspirators back in the old folks home where they belong.
Despite how wide-awake Falk looks, the investigations in the movie aren’t masterpieces of deduction. There are obvious traps sprung, villains attacking at precisely the kind of place to get them arrested in public (clearly to make it look like something’s happening in between the scenes of Scandinavians shuffling papers).
These movies are mortgage lifters for our embattled art house theaters, so it's painful to point out that the enervation of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is really indescribable. It ends the trilogy not with a bang but with a thud. It makes a long 2-1/2-hour journey from hospital bed to very unmoving last goodbye; the two leads (punkette avenger and dog-faced journalist) practically turn to the camera and say, “We’re done here.”