Before audiences have had time to get over The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the first episode in Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Millennium Trilogy (he recently became the first author to ever sell one million e-books on Amazon’s Kindle format), in rolls the second installment, The Girl Who Played With Fire—a worthy follow-up to its explosive prequel.
|PHOTOS COURTESY OF ENCORE FILMS|
When two journalists on the cusp of exposing the truth about a Swedish sex trade are brutally murdered, the titular character, Lisbeth Salander, an expert computer hacker and troubled soul, becomes the sole suspect. But angry and prone to violence as she is, her one-time flame and partner-in-crime busting, journalist Michael Blomkvist, knows beyond a shadow of doubt that she is innocent. As she goes on the run, trying to stay under the radar of both the cops and the real murderers, Blomkvist races against time to piece together the clues and find Salander before she self-destructs in a vengeful mission to clear her name.
In the process, Blomkvist uncovers the tragic facts of Salander’s dark childhood, one marked by psychiatric wards, abuse and injustice. While this second installment is entirely watchable as a stand-alone film, the payoff is greater if you have watched the first, as pieces of Salander’s murky past come together.
As with the first movie, the overarching theme here is sexual violence against women, but The Girl Who Played With Fire works better as an action-drama flick about personal vendetta than it does as a crime thriller, for several reasons: the narrative gets a bit too convoluted for its good at times, while veering into predictable implausibility every now and then. Still, the tight pacing and searing performances from its cast, especially Noomi Rapace, who reprises her role as Salander, more than make up for the weaknesses.