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The Girl Who Played With Fire Suffers Sophomore Slump. Sorry, Stieg Larsson.

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The Girl Who Played With Fire
Directed by Daniel Alfredson
Music Box Films
Opens July 9

This grim and bloody adaptation of the second volume of the late Stieg Larsson's bestselling Millennium trilogy—featuring journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace)—moves the story into a very different register from the stand-alone murder mystery of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Larsson's The Girl Who Played With Fire is a cliffhanger whose resolution comes only in the third volume, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, which makes for certain structural infelicities in the adaptation (suggesting that the best way to enjoy the trilogy would be as weekly episodic television). This time, we navigate the innermost recesses of post–Cold War Sweden's secret state. Lisbeth, a semi-criminal adult ward of the Swedish state, gets her biography painstakingly backfilled, revealing disturbing connections with the main narrative, in which Mikael hires two investigative journalists with a bombshell story on child sex abuse in high places. Predictably, this pair is soon murdered, and their killer, equally predictably, is linked with baroque psychopaths from Lisbeth's past. Stripped of Larsson's social/political minutiae and slimmed down to its thriller chassis, certain clichés become more glaring: Lisbeth's superhuman hacking skills, overfamiliar from a zillion TV procedurals; an exploitative lesbian sex scene that mightn't have pleased the feminist Larsson; the secondary villain, a blond giant incapable of feeling pain—gah!; and the too-comfy manner in which the twin narratives finally interlace. As with the Twilight franchise, fans of the novels will eat it up, while newbies may wonder what all the fuss is about.

 
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