The Girl Who Played With Fire
Hot on the heels of flat-packed thriller The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, every Guardian reader’s favourite kickboxing, lesbian Goth avenger/sociopath is back in the second of Swedish author Steig Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire.
Newly wealthy, lesbian Goth computer hacker/feminist avenging angel Lisbeth Salander (the titular girl) is sunning herself in the Caribbean and living off the fortune she defrauded at the end of the first film when she learns her abusive, court-appointed guardian, corrupt lawyer Bjurmann (Peter Andersson) is planning to have laser surgery to remove the “I am a rapist” tattoo she gave him (after beating and sodomising him) in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Full of righteous fury, she flies back to Sweden, breaks into his flat and threatens to kill him if he does. As you do. Meanwhile crusading investigative journalist (and the only man ever to, briefly, turn Lisbeth!) Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyquist) and his colleagues at Millennium magazine are about to expose an international sex trafficking ring with links to the highest echelons of Swedish society. When three people connected to the story are murdered and Salander is framed for the crime forcing her to become a fugitive, Blomkvist smells a rat and launches his own investigation to clear her name. But the damaged Salander has her own ideas about justice…
Like a crime thriller written by Andrea Dworkin (all men are rapists, all women are kickboxing lesbian avengers, blah, blah, blah, yawn) and then rewritten by Eli Roth (Gratuitous lesbian sex scene! Naked sex slaves tied to beds! Hatchets and gore!), The Girl Who Played With Fire is a humourless, flat-packed, pot-boiler that will no doubt delight and divide fans of Larsson’s books while leaving the rest of us wondering just what all the fuss is about. Lurid and convoluted without being intricate or intelligent, the film tries to have its cake and eat it, at once condemning misogyny whilst revelling in the film’s more graphically salacious interludes (explicit depictions of sexual abuse and a pointless, overlong, soft-focus, lesbian sex scene. Though most films could be improved by the addition of a pointless, soft-focus, lesbian sex scene).
While it’s as clinically efficient as its predecessor, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the film suffers from not being a stand-alone piece; it’s a bridge between the first and third instalments and a knowledge of the first part is essential. The plot is by-the-numbers storytelling with bad guys right out of a Bond movie; The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo gave us tag-team father and son Nazi serial killers, The Girl Who Played With Fire gives us a sex trafficking ring made up of a quasi-Aryan biker gang, an indestructible German hulk who doesn’t feel pain and a scarred Russian mastermind. The plot is entirely predictable right down to its “Luke, I am your father,” twist and as with most modern detective thrillers the heroes do precious little detecting, relying on their phones and the Internet to track down the bad guys (“Quick Watson, to the app store,” as the Beeb’s recent Sherlock would probably say). Noomi Rapace is again excellent as the damaged Salander and while she’s as tough, creepy and vulnerable as she was in the first film, her character, in no way, develops; she’s a little shoe-gazing ball of fury at the start and she’s a little shoe-gazing ball of fury at the end (albeit one who’s losing blood). If anything she develops near superhuman powers, surviving being beaten, shot and buried alive without losing the parting in her severe Goth hairstyle and tracking down the baddies with the aid of her super-duper photographic memory.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the film however is that the central characters, Blomkvist and Salander never really share any screen-time. By necessity the plot keeps them apart, Salander is on the run after all and Blomkvist is working to clear her name, but much of the original film’s charm was the developing relationship between the two and Salander’s slow humanisation. Instead, the film keeps her alone and virtually mute; a Goth stereotype. Without that spark of a human relationship The Girl Who Played With Fire is really just The Girl Who Likes To String Up Whoremongers.
Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyquist, Georgi Staykov, Micke Spreitz, Peter Andersson, Yasmine Garbi, Paolo Roberto
Nikolaj Arcel & Rasmus Heisterberg, based on the novel by Steig Larsson
UK Release Date
27 August 2010