Girl Who Played With Fire, The

The Girl Who Played With Fire The Girl Who Played With Fire The Girl Who Played With Fire The Girl Who Played With Fire The Girl Who Played With Fire

Sharply uneven, "The Girl Who Played With Fire" is the second film adaptation from the best-selling "Millennium" trilogy, written by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson. Hampered by a semi-engaging narrative, based on structural problems that are also in the novel, the movie is at least two notches below the first, terrific picture, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

 
Even so, the trilogy of films, based on books with a huge fan base, and are released in the U.S. by Music Box, stands to become one of the year's highest grossing foreign-language films. The third leg, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," based on the third novel in the "Millennium trilogy," will be released by Music Box in October 2010.
 
Compared to the first film, "The Girl Who Played with Fire," feels and looks as if it were made for serial television (which it was). One of its main problems is that the first half is too much a procedural picture, replete with details of various crimes, whereas the second is a horror film, and a generic one at that, with all the expected gore and blood, confrontations and fights.
 
The main attraction here, as in the first film, is the original, complex, bisexual figure of Lisbeth Salander, the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker, wonderfully played by Noomi Rapace, who doesn't look or behave like any movie star you know.
 
Lisbeth becomes the key suspect, when her fingerprints are found on the murder weapon of a series of brutal murders in the wake of an extensive investigation of a sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden.
 
Mikael Blomkvist, "Millennium's publisher and former disgraced journalist who befriended Salander during a previous investigation, is the only one who believes that Salander is innocence. Defying the police and formal authorities and his own colleagues, Mikael swiftly plunges into an examination of the slayings, knowing that it might implicate highly placed members of Swedish society, business and government. 
 
Fully aware that Salander is mercilessly fierce when fearful and in danger, he is desperate to get to her before she is cornered and alone, but she is nowhere to be found. 
 
Digging deeper, Blomkvist unearths some heart-wrenching facts about Salander's past life. Committed to psychiatric care at age 12, declared legally incompetent at 18, she seems to be the product/victim of an unjust and corrupt system.
 
Meanwhile, the elusive Salander herself is drawn into a murderous hunt in which she is the prey, and which compels her to revisit her dark past, which involves serious parental abuse, both mental and sexual, and disclosurea about her very name.
 
Like the first film, "The Girl Who Played With Fire" condenses many events from the novel, but the plot as presented on screen leaves much to be desired in the way it unfolds. The strategy of director Daniel Alfredson is that of cross-cutting, switching back and forth between Lisbeth's story and Mikael's. "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" benefited immensely from the relationship of the two main characters, who collaborated and worked together, and for a while, were even lovers.
 
Some of the revelations made, shown in flashbacks, are truly shocking, but they often come out of nowhere. Indeed, despite many unanticipated moments, the tale lacks genuine dramatic energy and sustained tension, resulting in a film that drags and overextends its welcome by at lease 20 minutes.