No-nonsense take on Larsson's best seller

Noomi Rapace is Lisbeth Salander , the punk, brainiac heroine in the second in the Stieg Larsson trilogy.
Noomi Rapace is Lisbeth Salander , the punk, brainiac heroine in the second in the Stieg Larsson trilogy.
Posted: July 09, 2010

There's a wickedly funny Stieg Larsson takeoff in last week's New Yorker: Nora Ephron riffing on the late Swedish author's mega-selling Millennium Trilogy. Titled "The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut," Ephron's piece takes The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest to task, deftly mocking Larsson's penchant for Stockholm street names, his characters' ardent consumption of coffee and sandwiches, and the unwavering seriousness exhibited by his punk, brainiac heroine, Lisbeth Salander.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of Larsson's Nordic noirs (and, I suspect, so is Ephron). But she nails the farcical in the author's stony prose, and the ridiculousness in the relationship between fierce, feisty Lisbeth and superstud investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist.

And while big chunks of plot have been expunged from the film adaptation of The Girl Who Played With Fire (no Caribbean hurricane! no breast implants!), plenty that lays itself open to parody in Larsson's book - the Ikea furniture, the espressos, Lisbeth's inability to crack a smile - has, for better and worse, been preserved.

Once again starring the formidable Noomi Rapace as Salander and the solid Michael Nyqvist as Blomkvist, The Girl Who Played With Fire isn't as accomplished a piece of filmmaking as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. That one, directed by Niels Arden Oplev, had a dark intensity about it, nimbly working the rhythms of suspense. It felt, well, cinematic. The Girl Who Played With Fire (and its follow-up, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, to be released next month) comes from Daniel Alfredson, a veteran of Swedish TV. This is no-nonsense, let's-get-to-it business, and will probably be less satisfying, and less clear, to viewers unfamiliar with the source material.

When Lisbeth shows up unannounced at the office of her former boss, Milton Security's Dragan Armansky, after disappearing for almost a year, the significance of her visit - and the complicated surrogate father-daughter thing between them - just isn't conveyed.

And Rapace, with her tattoo (of course) and her pierces, playing this solitary, dangerous soul, is photographed and directed in a manner that makes her performance seem smaller, somehow.

But, as they say in Sweden (or at least on Google's translation function), "så vad så vad," or so what? For fans who can't get enough of Larsson's twisted capers, of Salander's damaged soul and deft kickboxing moves, of Blomkvist's deep looks into his laptop screen - not to mention the nasty business with sex traffickers and crooked police and lawyers - The Girl Who Played With Fire should do the trick.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|